The 2019 UK-India Week got off to a running start with the UK Parliament celebrating the first-ever India Day. The event was marked by speeches, round table interactions and the release of the list of the 100 Most Influential women in UK-India Relations.
"The UK's relationship with India is a litmus test for anyone who advocates a brighter future for the UK outside the European Union (EU),” said Lord Jitesh Gadhia, an Indian-origin peer, in his opening speech.
The first-ever India Day was hosted by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ruchi Ghanashyam and Lord Gadhia and included a speech by the guest of honour, senior Conservative Party MP and minister in the UK Cabinet, Amber Rudd.
"There is a need to be ambitious from the UK's side, but one thing is certain that Britain is a steadfast friend of India and vice versa,” said Rudd, who is the UK Secretary of state for work and pensions.
The Indian high commissioner emphasised that the ongoing UK-India Week was indicative of the passion in the UK for a relationship with India.
“Recent FDI figures are proof that the interest of Indian businesses remains strong. Brexit or no Brexit, there is a confidence in the UK as a place to do business," said Ghanashyam.
The day wrapped up with the release of the third 100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations List, which comprised entirely of women this year. Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, HE Ghanashyam, UK Secretary of State for Defence Penny Mordaunt, NASSCOM president Debjani Ghosh and filmmaker Gurinder Chaddha were among prominent women from both nations featured in the list.
“This week is about setting the pace for a new and exciting innings. One where we recognise the strengths of each other, where we recognise the importance of the flow of business, but equally the flow of people,” said Manoj Ladwa, Founder and CEO of India Inc., who organised the UK-India Week in England.
Earlier in the day, the House of Commons' influential Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) had released its Global Britain and India inquiry report to mark India Day and flagged "missed opportunities" in the bilateral relationship.
"I will certainly be pressing the new Prime Minister to ensure the findings of the report are implemented to redefine and reawaken UK-India ties, especially now when the UK is at a crossroads as it prepares to leave the EU," said FAC Chair Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative Party MP who led the inquiry.
UK-India Week will involve a series of events to explore investment opportunities between the two countries, including a Leadership Summit in Buckinghamshire in south-east England between today and Thursday and concluding with the UK-India Awards on Friday.