Economic reforms in India and Global Britain agenda have set the stage for explosive growth in bilateral ties.
With the UK announcing the Indo-Pacific region as a new priority in its foreign policy, India will inevitably find itself at the heart of not only new trade opportunities but also a whole new dimension of strategic relationship with Britain.
“We want to trade more, including with India. We want to create more security, whether it is maritime or cyber. And we want to be a force for good in the region,” British foreign secretary Dominic Raab told CNN-News18 in an interview last week, signalling the Boris Johnson government’s intention to step up the engagement with the world’s largest democracy. “In all of these areas we find that India will be one of our strongest partners in the future and we’re very excited about India joining our G7 summit,” Raab said. “That shows how much we prize the India relationship, both bilateral and also as a partner, and as a very close partner, in the India-Pacific region as a whole.”
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Britain’s ‘integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy,’ following a year of preparation, is set to radically shift the focus of British foreign policy for the foreseeable future - and radically impacting a whole gamut of other areas such as trade, investment and clean energy.
Coinciding with that shift, the UK-India Business Council has released 'Advocating Business Success in 2021' report, with several positive advocacy outcomes in support of the UK-India trade and investment relationship. Advocating opportunities in key sectors such as aerospace, defence, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, digital and data services, food, higher education, manufacturing and banking, financial services and insurance, the report forms a strong roadmap for boosting UK-India bilateral trade.
“It is a pleasure to share the advocacy successes and goals of the UKIBC through our annual Advocating Business Success Report. The UKIBC strengthens the UK-India trade and investment ties through policy advocacy, strategic advisory and membership services, and supporting governmental deliberations. The bilateral relationship has stepped up significantly this year amidst India's self-reliant goal and the UK's post-Brexit agenda, and as such, it is a really exciting and opportunistic time for companies in both countries,” said UKIBC Group CEO Jayant Krishna.
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Indeed, the UK and India have long been important economic partners, and their mutually beneficial relationship has grown significantly in the last year despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The joint effort on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India in Pune is an exemplar of such strong and cohesive partnerships.
India's FDI cap has been extended from 49 per cent to 74 per cent in the insurance and defence sectors and its new National Education Policy has set a precedent for globalization of higher education in India and for Indians looking to study abroad – thereby creating the right conditions for foreign investors. Similarly, the UK is establishing its post-Brexit "Global Britain" agenda, shifting the focus away from the European Union to deepen its relationships with allies and partners around the world. Combined with the fact that India is projected to become the world's third-largest economy by 2030, this provides enormous opportunities to UK businesses, aided by India's growing consumption, investment, and production and service markets.
“Some of the key successes highlighted in our report include the reduction in India's corporate tax rate, the increase in India's FDI limit in the insurance sector, and India's globalisation agenda under its new National Education Policy 2020, India's FDI cap increase from 49 per cent to 74 percent through the automatic route for the defence sector and increase in the ceiling prices of 21 drug formulations by 50 per cent,” said Krishna. “On the UK side, the two-year post-study work visa was a welcome move. UKIBC also carried out a lot of advocacy work closely aligned with the UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) which brings businesses from both countries together with UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, and Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, and other senior Government officials,” he added.
According to Kevin McCole, UKIBC Managing Director, British business advisors have recently stepped up efforts to help Indian companies navigate the rapidly-changing commercial and economic landscape of the UK. “The UK is also changing because of economic policies being put in place to build back better from the Covid recession, and because of devolution to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and to the major cities that have powerful elected Mayors. All of this is new and relevant for Indian businesses. We are proud to support UK and Indian businesses with their advocacy objectives,” he said.