Transcript of a speech by British Prime Minister's Diaspora Champion Priti Patel MP at the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce, Ahmedabad 7 January 2015.
Ms Patel said:
Respected Shri Rakesh Bhai, President of the distinguished Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, distinguished patrons, board members, officers, distinguished industrialists and members of the media.
On behalf of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and my colleagues from the UK, my humble greetings and heartfelt Namaaskar.
Thank you for the very warm welcome I’ve received today. It is a personal privilege to join you here today and speak about our shared future.
By working together, the UK and Gujarat can do great things.
I have two official jobs in the British Government. I am the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, working with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Like your outstanding Finance Minister Jaitley and his team, the job of our team in the Treasury is to create a prosperous, dynamic and competitive economy in the UK. A successful economic and business environment is at the very heart of the wellbeing of any nation.
And I am also the Prime Minister’s Champion for the Indian diaspora community in the UK – and I’ve seen at first hand the importance of trade and commerce in securing growth and prosperity.
I also know the leading role the British Indian community play when it comes to driving entrepreneurship, business growth and employment across our economy.
And I have seen how our communities and our countries can work together to our mutual benefit.
The Indian diaspora community is one of the strongest bonds in the deep and mature relationship between India and the UK.
A third of the Indian diaspora in the UK are proud Gujaratis.
It fills me with pride to see the Gujarati spirit of trade and entrepreneurship stronger than ever – both here in India, and in the UK.
As a British born Gujarati, I know of the vast and vibrant history that Gujarat has. I also know of Gujarat’s long-held position as a leader in trade, commerce and industry. As a leading sea port and trading hub for beads, world famous diamonds and gemstones, and also as an international hub that also became a gateway to India.
More recently, Gujarat has produced leading figures such as Jamsetji Tata, Vikram Sarabhai, and Kasturbhai Lalbhai – who co-founded the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry back in 1949 - and of course, Narendra bhai.
2014 was a groundbreaking year for India – a year that raised India’s standing in the world through the election of another great Gujarati to Prime Minister of this great nation. New opportunities are now opened up for deeper ties between the UK and India.
We are as ambitious for the India – UK relationship as Prime Minister Modi is for the future of his country.
The passion he has for the future of India is mirrored in the passion we have for our joint relationship.
In the last year we saw some really significant steps forward in deepening the relationship between our two nations.
Just weeks after your elections, the British Chancellor and Foreign Secretary flew over to New Delhi. As part of that visit, our Chancellor and the Indian Finance Minister agreed to launch the India-UK Financial Partnership – a strategic partnership which will draw our financial capitals of London and Mumbai even closer together, particularly in financial services.
I was part of that delegation – and we all felt a renewed sense of confidence and excitement on the street.
We were also here just days before the presentation to Parliament of the Government’s first budget.
Since that first Budget we have all seen the expansion in India’s economy, an increased desire for more overseas investment, and pro-growth Government reforms.
You are at the cusp of another economic transformation – and the UK will stand shoulder to shoulder with you on this journey.
We will continue to be one of the strongest voices calling for a broad and ambitious EU-India Trade and Investment Agreement – boosting trade and investment opportunities on both sides.
It’s no coincidence that the longest-dated bond in the offshore rupee market anywhere in the world was issued on the London Stock Exchange last November – and I was very proud to be launching it. It was a milestone moment, and one that we should be proud of.
India and Gujarat in particular are long standing trade partners of the UK. In the globalised world in which we live, these links are crucial.
The UK is the biggest G20 investor in India. India invests more into the UK than in the rest of the European Union, with the 700 Indian-owned businesses in the UK employing more than 100,000 people. And our Prime Minister is committed to increasing trade. Since 2009, trade with India has risen from £11 billion to £16.4 billion in 2013.
In my schedule, I take every opportunity I get to travel outside London. The message that resonates consistently is the enthusiasm within the UK for deepening trade, investment and research links with India and particularly Gujarat.
This is not just with household-name firms such as Shell, BP, Bombardier and JCB – but also in the SME sector.
So how can we do more?
First of all, I strongly believe the Chamber of Commerce has an important role in growing this bilateral relationship – and we will help and support you to do so.
So, to further enhance this, I would like to invite Rakesh Bhai to bring a business delegation over to the UK.
I know my colleagues Professor Puriji and Uday Bhai will support the mission as they have done so well in the past. I would like to thank them for all their work and it would be my personal pleasure to welcome you all to London.
Secondly, we are expanding our diplomatic footprint in India to promote increased bilateral trade and investment.
Although we have the largest geographical presence of any foreign country in India, we can do more.
So, since May 2012 we have upgraded our Trade Offices in Hyderabad and Chandigarh to Deputy High Commissions. And I can confirm that our ambition is to do the same here in Ahmedabad.
In particular, we are focusing on increasing the number of UK SMEs exporting to India. In November 2012, the PM launched a new £8m programme to strengthen the UK’s overseas business networks – creating one connected, global British business network.
Thirdly, we are mobilising “soft power”.
The Indian diaspora community is not only one of the greatest assets the UK has. It is one of the greatest ways we can promote trade and influence.
The PM’s creation of the role of Diaspora Champion was testament to the importance the UK accords to its Indian community. And it’s an honour to serve in the role.
A major part of this role has been energising communities and unleashing their appetite for connecting even more closely with India.
Not just in Gujurat… but also Punjab, Rajasthan, Bengal, South India – effectively wherever there are historic, business, cultural and family ties.
Here, particularly thorough organising missions and visits, the Gujarat Chamber can play an important role – including by sharing best practice on issues such as women entrepreneurs and social enterprises.
And fourth, we are expanding collaboration in areas beyond trade and investment – so we can strengthen the all-important people-to-people links.
In education, we have welcomed almost 100,000 students from India over the past five years. We are sending 25,000 British students here over the next five years to build their own links with India. We are collaborating on multi-million pound science and research projects, including in green growth, where Gujarat and Britain are pioneers. And we have quadrupled funding for Chevening Scholarships for Indian students.
The University of Leicester is working with the Police here in Gujarat on DNA finger printing. And the Gir Lions Sanctuary is developing links to Twycross Zoo and the University of Nottingham.
We attach real importance to projects such as these – because a healthy and mature relationship between two nations is cultural as well as economic.
Tomorrow, I visit the Gandhi Ashram, a hundred years after Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa.
And this year, the UK will pay him honour by unveiling a statue of him in Parliament Square. This new memorial will be a lasting and fitting tribute to his memory in Britain and a permanent monument to our friendship with India.
Our two countries – the UK and India – have much to offer each other.
And the depth of the link between the UK and Gujarat is particularly special.
The motto of the Gujarat Chamber is “nurturing … facilitating … transforming Gujarat’s commerce and industry”.
That is indeed how we build lasting prosperity.
And we will be your partners as you lead on that journey. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. Our commitment is unprecedented when it comes to India. And there is so much more we can do.
Thank you, and all very best wishes.