I am pleased to welcome you here tonight to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty The Queen. As the UK does not have a formal National Day, this is our National Day celebration and you are all invited.
I can list many reasons to celebrate, but tonight I want to focus on three:
- Her Majesty the Queen’s landmark 90th birthday;
- a full and successful year of UK partnership with the State of Karnataka and
- the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, playwright, poet and actor.
As some of you are aware The Queen has two birthdays:
- her actual birthday on 21 April and
- her official birthday which she celebrates on Saturday (11 June).
On Saturday, in London, The Queen will be ‘Trooping the Colour’ a chance for her to inspect her Household Division on Horse Guards Parade. This will be televised live on the BBC World Service at 2.30 pm India time, please tune in. Later there will be a ‘flypast’ and a huge public street party in the mall, and in towns and cities across the UK where communities will close down residential streets to celebrate with their neighbours – much as we are doing tonight.
Her Majesty The Queen is the UK’s longest reigning monarch. She passed that milestone in September last year superseding her Great Grandmother Queen Victoria. She has given 64 years of service and dedication to her country and the Commonwealth both at home and overseas, and is loved by most for it.
Her unparallel experience of world affairs and her contacts are an asset to any British Prime Minister. When the two meet weekly the Prime Minister advises on matters of the day and is in turn advised. The Queen has visited India on three occasions with her husband Prince Philip, firstly on tour in 1961 when she visited Bengaluru and the Lal Bagh Gardens, then for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 1983, and then again in 1997. The legacy of royal visits continues. This April we welcomed the first visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to India. The visit focused on the Royal couple’s charity work on poverty alleviation, education and animal conservation. Meeting with famous cricketers, Bollywood stars and innovation leaders caught the imagination of the press in both countries and around the world. All set the tone for what we hope will be a close and enduring relationship between the couple and India for years to come.
A UK partnership with Karnataka
In Bengaluru the UK partnership with the state of Karnataka continues to strengthen. The British Trade Office, Bangalore opened for business in 1994. We are proud of the fact that the UK was the first country to open such an office in the city. The office was upgraded to a Deputy High Commission in 2009. Today the BDHC (as we call it) is an integral part of the UK’s largest single country diplomatic network overseas. We are pleased to be co-located with the British Library, part of the British Council Network in India.
Prime Minister Modi has said that the UK and India are an ‘unbeatable combination’. At the BDHC we are tasked with delivering the UK/Karnataka dimension of this partnership, but we don’t do this alone. Our successes are built on our partnership with you.
2015/16 has seen many successes.
- taken forward our campaign in advanced engineering focusing on the benefits of distributed manufacture
- launched our campaign for Indian companies to work with UK partners on ‘Making Tomorrow’s Medicines’
- started work with UK and Indian ICT companies in the Fin-tech space
- supported 5 new Bengaluru companies to internationalise their operations through new investment into the UK
- worked with UK and Indian companies in the low carbon energy space
- built research collaborations to enhance water security and climate science.
In June 2015 the Chevening alumni met for the first time as a group here in Bengaluru. I am pleased to announce that one year later the Chevening Alumni India (CAI), Bengaluru Chapter was launched by our new High Commissioner, Sir Dominic Asquith at a reception here earlier this afternoon;
In September, the then UK Minister for Trade and Investment, Lord Maude visited Bengaluru to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony of GSK’s newest manufacturing facility in Kolar. I am pleased that James and his team can join us this evening;
In December, the UK Science and Universities Minister, Jo Johnson visited Bengaluru to showcase UK and India’s growing partnership in research and innovation, worth over £200 million, and anchored by our flag-ship Newton-Bhabha Programme. He also spoke about the quality of UK higher education and tacked some of the myths surrounding UK visas;
In February, the UK Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire visited Bengaluru to consult large users of Tier 2 work visas on proposed changes to the UK visa system. Indian companies welcomed the opportunity to put forward their cases;
In February, the UK was a partner country at ‘Invest Karnataka’, with 23 UK companies showcasing their products on the UK stand. I am pleased the driving force behind that event, minister Deshpande, can join us tonight;
In February, we also welcomed a 20+ strong UK delegation to Bangalore India Bio the flagship event of the Indian bio industry;
Two days ago we welcomed Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of the UK’s National Heath Service who visited the Narayana Hurdayalaya Hospital to discuss UK-India collaboration opportunities in surgery and public health;
And tonight we are joined by an international delegation from the Royal College of Defence Studies in the UK who are looking into opportunities for ‘Make in India’ in the defence sector.
It has not all been work in the regular sense - I did need to a keep a straight face when asked by a local reporter whether it was a requirement for all British diplomats to know so much about James Bond - this in advance of the local premier of the new James Bond Film ‘Spectre’ in November.
The video loop playing out on the big screen tonight gives a fuller flavour of what we have achieved through our joint efforts and what we can justly be proud of.
When I mentioned this year’s Shakespeare anniversary to Indian colleagues one wit commented that many an Indian school boy would be happy to celebrate the death of Shakespeare. As a schoolboy I probably fell into that category – what use would Shakespeare ever be to me. But Shakespeare is inherently part of our daily lives.
Have you ever been ‘in a pickle’ or had ‘too much of a good thing’. Have friends ‘eaten (you) out of house and home’, or had you ‘in stitches’ over a joke. There are important lessons to be learnt such as the impact of threes in speeches ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears’, and the impact of corruption and decay on societies – ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’. Shakespeare was an powerful advocate for the empowerment of women (both for good… and bad… think Lady Macbeth).
A British Council survey this year found Shakespeare was better understood in India (83%) than in Britain (58%) but what is interesting is that both these figure are so high.
This year I have seen the Handlebards perform ‘Hamlet’ as a comedy at the Jagriti theatre and the Bardolators of Bangalore perform a ‘Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’ in a bamboo grove in Cubbon Park. This was supposed to be their last performance, but as a special treat for you tonight they have reformed and will be performing ‘Scenes from Shakespeare’ later this evening – so don’t move quickly away from that oddly dressed guest, you may be missing out on something special.
Later to commemorate this anniversary year of Shakespeare we have two Traveller Plus return air tickets from Bengaluru to London, courtesy of British Airways, to give away. We hope the two lucky winners and others travelling to the UK this year will take the opportunity to join in the many Shakespearian events taking place in London and across the UK. You could fit in a visit to the ‘Globe Theatre’ in London or travel to Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford - the choice is wide.
This evening has only been possible with the hard work of the British Deputy High Commission and British Library Staff, and the GREAT team based in Delhi who have designed tonight’s layout. I would like to single out Ramya Raghavedra and her planning team who worked hard over many months.
I would also like to thank our live band ‘Heart to Heart’ who will be playing for us this evening, and our generous sponsors for their support in cash and kind for making tonight’s party possible.
Our gold sponsors this year are: Infosys, Dynamatic Technologies, British Airways, and Lyca Mobile UK;
Our silver sponsors are: Biocon, Rolls Royce India, Tata Elxsi, Quest Global Engineering and Diageo;
Our bronze sponsors are: The Dune Group, Pavers, Mackays, Marks and Spencers, Food Hall, Twinings and United Breweries.
Enough of me. Let me end with: ‘Give me your hands if we be friends’.
I hope you all have a great evening.