Members in the UK Parliament complex hosted a special celebration to mark the 76th year of India's independence with cross-party support and the backing of the India (Trade and Investment) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).
British Indian think tank 1928 Institute organised a special roundtable entitled 'India and the Indo-Pacific' bringing together the High Commissioners of India, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada, Nepal, among others, ahead of the reception in the River Room of the House of Lords on Monday evening.
The keynote address was delivered by Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, who reiterated the Labour Party's commitment to fostering closer India-UK ties.
"It does feel particularly special that I think this is the first time an event like this has taken place in Parliament," said Starmer.
"It's absolutely incredible to be here and to be making this milestone, and may there be many, many more as we go forward. India, of course, won its independence under the [Prime Minister Clement] Attlee government a good Labour government post war. Under my leadership, Labour will continue to build on the internationalist principles that underpinned that really important decision back then and work with India on the global stage," he said.
The Labour leader reiterated a recent commitment he made during UK-India Week last month of leading a "changed" party that values the contributions of the Indian diaspora, stressing that a "future labour government will stand up for the rights of British Indians" and also pledged action against all forms of anti-India racism.
"From fighting pandemics to rebuilding and fighting climate change to fighting terrorism, the UK and India stand together, have worked together on those projects...The nature of the UK-India relationship that we would seek will be based on these principles: open-handed, respectful, forward-looking and aspirational," he added.
Baroness Sandy Verma, president of the India (Trade and Investment) APPG, highlighted the significance of the event as a celebration of what has been achieved in the bilateral relationship since India's independence.
"It is so crucial to have an APPG on India focused on trade and investment. The Indian government hosted us in April, when we had the first parliamentary delegation from the UK to India in six years...it should not have taken so long, we should be doing one every single year," said Lord Karan Bilimoria, co-chair of the APPG, who pointed to the lack of a major British trade delegation to India since Theresa May was the Prime Minister in November 2016 and called for one under the leadership of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Ministers from the Sunak-led government present at the event included Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston and Foreign Office Minister for the Indo-Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan.
The Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, spoke of the "extraordinary opportunity" presented by the India-UK partnership, which has everything going for it.
"We essentially need to look at it as a forward-looking partnership. We often make the mistake, and I think it's a common feeling in both our cultures, of trying to navigate the way forward by looking back. It is a spectacularly good recipe for landing on one's face," the High Commissioner said.
Doraiswami underscored the key pillars of building a strong bilateral partnership and pointed to the Indian diaspora as a "model community" in the UK as one such pillar that binds the countries together.
"Your success has been a source of pride to both countries, but it's also been an inspiration for what can be done through hard work, through family values, through the enabling environment of a system that has essentially allowed you to give your best. That has come not through ease, but through hard work," he said, addressing the strong diaspora gathering including Dr Jason Wouhra of Lioncroft wholesale business.
The 1928 Institute, an Oxford University spin-out platform created to research and reflect the views of British Indians as the UK's largest ethnic minority group, said the event was an effort to commemorate the sacrifice of the generation of Indians who fought in the struggle for Indian independence.
While this week marked the first celebration of its kind in the UK Parliament complex ahead of Independence Day on August 15, it is expected to become an annual event in the parliamentary calendar.