Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke at the launch of the King's College India Institute on 26 January.
I am very grateful to Lord Duoro and Professor Khilnani for their very kind introduction; and to everyone at King’s College for the great privilege of inaugurating your venerable university’s newest Institute.
When I travel overseas I am struck by how often the leaders I meet begin our discussions with stories of studying here in Britain. Shared educational experiences create a bond for life. The fact that so many people of other nationalities find the allure of British universities irresistible is a great asset to our nation. It contributes to our economy, to our reputation as an open society and to our cultural influence in the world. Conversely - although this is an impression rather than a hard and fast rule - I have noted that when I visit a country in which we do not traditionally have a close partnership in foreign policy, it is often the case that our educational links are at a low level as well.
Foreign Policy is not just about international summits and resolutions. It rests on a web of connections, and more so as the twenty-first century goes on, between individuals, families, civil society, companies, and academic institutions like your own. And in order to have successful relations with a country like India we have to have the deepest possible understanding of its culture, its history and politics, its rich traditions and its complex geography. We need a strong awareness of all the factors that contribute to its policies and its relations with the rest of the world, and we must constantly update our assumptions as those factors change over time.
This is why I have launched a new programme in the Foreign Office called Diplomatic Excellence, which is designed to foster and retain deep cultural knowledge and understanding of other nations among our diplomats, including their language skills. It is a programme which our diplomats have embraced with enthusiasm, and it includes the formation of a new cadre dealing with India and a new diplomatic training programme to deepen our expertise in contemporary India.
One of the first to take up this programme was our new High Commissioner in India, who had just spent more than two months travelling across the country before taking up his post, to deepen his own understanding of the beautiful and fascinating country he now serves in - and in which I spent my honeymoon.
So I applaud the thinking behind this Institute as being very much in tune with our own, and hope that the Foreign Office will also benefit from the fresh perspective you will bring to our understanding of India, and that we will be able to draw upon you as a source of expertise.
We are working hard to champion British education overseas as a Government, including very recently signing an agreement with Brazil, which I visited last week, that will bring 10,000 Brazilian students to study here in Britain over the next four years. They will be joining the 400,000 foreign students who already do so, including 40,000 from India alone - not to mention the many others who are on joint programmes between British and Indian universities. Today British universities are developing closer ties with many first class institutions in India, and are champing at the bit to set up in India themselves once changes to Indian legislation permits them to do so.
So it really is a promising moment for King’s College to open an Institute devoted to promoting intellectual and practical engagement with contemporary India.
For this century will be shaped by India more than any other that has come before it.
Now is the time to study India, to invest in India and to work with India. This applies to all of us; to those of us in Government seeking a stronger foreign policy and economic future for this country; to businesses seeking to expand, and to individuals seeking new opportunities and a deeper understanding of today’s world.
India is making its mark on the global economy with electrifying skill, innovation and dynamism. It is already one of the largest economies in the world and will soon have the world’s largest population.
It is leading the way in the development of renewable energy and green technologies.
It is playing an increasingly important role in the affairs of the world - from tackling piracy off the Horn of Africa to United Nations peacekeeping and development support to Afghanistan.
It stands as a beacon of successful democratic and economic development, one that many developing nations look to for an example to follow.
And it enriches our shared culture in innumerable ways - from the prize-winning novels of Aravind Adiga to the sporting prowess of Sachin Tendulkar.
I was delighted to be able to join the Prime Minister on his trip to India soon after we took office. There was a tangible sense of optimism in the air. People across India are justifiably proud of the direction that their country is taking, and their enthusiasm is infectious. At the same time, the Indian people and their representatives are rightly focused on ensuring that each one of the 1.2 billion Indians shares the benefits of this amazing development story.
There can be few other countries anywhere in the world that are as genuinely optimistic and positive about India’s success as we are here in Britain.
India’s success speaks for itself, but nonetheless I spent several years in opposition speaking at the parliamentary despatch box, describing the great and inexorable shift in the international landscape typified by the rise of India and the other emerging powers, and calling for British foreign policy to expand its reach and ambition in response to these changes.
The rise of India and other nations is good for the people of those countries; it is good for the world; and it brings immense opportunities for a country like Britain that is able to seize them.
We are at a crucial moment in the global economy, in which nations must adapt and compete successfully or risk falling behind.
Here in Britain we have every confidence that we will be a nation that adapts and that thrives over the long term. We are reforming our welfare and education system, adopting the most competitive tax system in the G20, and using our foreign policy to plug Britain into the fastest-growing parts of the world economy and to boost exports and investment. This is an enormous challenge and it comes at a time of great economic difficulty, but we have brought all the energy of the Government to bear on these issues.
It is why, alongside all the effort I devote as Foreign Secretary to global crises and problems, my Department is devoting more effort to supporting the British economy than at any time in our recent history. That means intensifying the relationship with India.
We are investing far more diplomatic and resource into relations with the other rising economic and political powers, opening six new Embassies and up to seven new Consulates General, and sending more staff to over 20 countries. This is helping us to support British business, but it is also necessary in order to understand an influence the far greater number of centres of decision-making that exist today.
India is very much at the forefront of our efforts.
We came into Government seeking a new Special Relationship with India. We see enormous value in the ties between our countries; in our shared values, the living bonds between our citizens, our membership of the Commonwealth and the complementary nature of our economies.
We want a relationship between India and Britain that is stronger, wider, and deeper.
We want to be India’s partner of choice in a whole range of areas as it develops its economy, supporting jobs creation and growth in both our countries.
We have set the target of doubling our trade with India by 2015 compared to 2010 and are making good progress: our exports were up more than 40% last year and India is now our third largest market outside the EU.
And we also want to see India represented at the top table of international decision-making, working more closely with us and other nations to address global issues.
That is why we support reform of the UN Security Council and a permanent seat for India. The time has come to make Security Council reform a reality. The institutions that underpin global governance must become more representative if they are to succeed in finding legitimate and sustainable solutions to the challenges of this century. This will not be easy to achieve, but it is essential. And while our countries do not always agree in foreign policy, we have a strong base to build on many shared values and a growing range of common interests that bind us.
In building this stronger relationship we know, as our Prime Minister has said, that, as he put it, “Britain cannot rely on sentiment or on shared history for a place in India’s future”. It is something that we must work hard to achieve.
Our Prime Ministers are in regular contact, seven British cabinet Ministers have visited India since May 2010, and I hope to visit again this year.
We are increasing our frontline staff in India by thirty officers. This is a considerable diplomatic reinforcement.
We have ambitious plans to open up to eight new British Trade Offices around the country, as part of a strategy to widen our focus beyond Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore.
And we plan to open new Deputy High Commissions in some of India’s other fast-growing cities.
We see many benefits for India in this stronger relationship.
We support the greater international role and voice for India that I have described, at the UN and elsewhere.
As India’s companies go global, reaching into new markets, the United Kingdom offers the brands, the creativity and the technology that Indian consumers and entrepreneurs want.
As India develops the skills of its growing workforce, we have the expertise to help.
We are a springboard into the European Single Market and the leading advocate of EU Free Trade Agreements, including that with India which we hope to see concluded this year.
We have refocused our long-standing development relationship to focus on attracting pro-poor private investment into the poorest states, on women and girls; and on laying the foundations for an enduring partnership on global issues.
Through the British Council and their Project English Initiative, and with support from Department for International Development, we have reached 17million learners and are helping train one million English teachers across India.
And I must also say here a word about immigration. We want the brightest and the best to come to Britain. We have made our immigration system far more efficient and targeted. For too many years it was chaotic. Over the past two years this Government has put a stop to the abuse that had damaged the reputation of our immigration system. But we are clear that if you want to come to Britain legitimately as a student, a business person or a visitor, then you are very welcome in the UK.
So for all these reasons this new Institute could not have come at a better time.
I wish the King’s College India Institute and its students every success in the coming years.
I congratulate Professor Khilnani and all those involved for the foresight and vision behind this project, and I share their great enthusiasm for it.
It is inspiring to think of all those who will expand our intellectual horizons and cement our ties with India in the years to come by studying here.
And it is a great pleasure, on India’s Republic Day and the 62nd anniversary of the signing of its Constitution, to express my sense of optimism and excitement about our relations with India and all that lies ahead for the citizens of both our countries, and the firm commitment of Her Majesty’s Government to even closer ties in the years to come and indeed we can hope throughout this century, which is very much India’s to shape.