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We are at a defining moment in British history
Jitesh Gadhia is one of Britain's newest peers and made worldwide headlines recently when he marked his entry to the House of Lords by swearing his oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II on a copy of the 'Rig Veda' - the ancient collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns dating back to around 1,200 BC. 'India Global Business' caught up with the 49-year-old investment banker of Gujarati-origin to delve into his new role, India-UK ties and the post-Brexit scenario. Should India be re-aligning its UK stance in any way, post Brexit It is no exaggeration to say that we are at a defining moment in British history as we grapple with the new realities post-Brexit. We stand at a crossroads for the UK and its future relationship with the rest of the world. As the saying goes: "A friend in need is a friend indeed". I hope that India will adopt this mindset and reach out to the UK and recognise both the necessities and opportunities opened up by its negotiated departure from the European Union (EU). The UK will clearly need to demonstrate some "quick wins" as it seeks bilateral trade deals outside the current EU multilateral framework. Meanwhile, the EU-India free trade agreement is at an impasse. I believe this opens up a golden opportunity for India to push both parties hard for ambitious trade deals across multiple fronts. However, the UK will be capacity constrained, given the limited number of experienced trade negotiators, and therefore playing "too cute" might mean that the British priority shifts elsewhere. What kind of role do you see for high-profile diaspora champions like yourself in the current climate I hope that British Indians who understand both UK and India can play a role in building bridges of trust and confidence. A respected Indian businessman described the UK-India relationship to me as being like a long-term marriage. They are so familiar with each other that they take each other for granted and sometimes need to find a new spark to revive their relationship. I hope some of us can encourage those new sparks. Has the UK done enough to attract Indian investments/businesses The depreciation in the Pound Sterling exchange rate post-Brexit has arguably done more for inward investment that any government intervention or incentives could ever achieve. At current exchange rates, with the pound at a 31-year low against the Dollar, Indian companies should find the acquisition of UK businesses and assets attractive, particularly if they take a medium-term strategic view which looks beyond the current uncertainty. Taking this longer range perspective is exactly what Intas Pharmaceuticals has done with its recent £600 million acquisition of Actavis UK & Ireland, creating a leading generics player in UK. It represents the largest Indian investment into the UK since Brexit and is vote of confidence in the future of the British economy. The UK should focus, above all else, on providing a stable, consistent and predictable business environment. All the evidence shows that inward investment is highly correlated with these features. How do you see some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially within the context of Brexit, impacting India′s engagement with the UK My personal experience is that Britain is an open and tolerant society which welcomes people from all over the world who can make a contribution to this country. Our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks of making Britain a great meritocracy, a place where advantage is based on merit not privilege; where it′s your talent and hard work that matter, not where you were born, who your parents are or what your accent sounds like. Whilst we have seen some unfortunate rhetoric and emotions being stirred during the Brexit debate, I hope these will subside over time. We do have to recognise the origins of these sentiments and tackle the root causes, which lies in alienation of people left behind by the forces of globalisation. This is an international phenomenon not just isolated to Britain. To use some literary analogies from Jane Austen′s books, Britain should strive to remain the land of "Sense and Sensibility" rather than "Pride and Prejudice". On a personal note, what are some of the goals you have set for yourself as a peer My philosophy in life has never been about being "somebody" but instead about finding ways to achieve maximum impact and doing "something". I believe that a peerage is a job - not an honour. My initials priorities will be threefold:
- to help secure the best possible future for UK financial services which represents over 2 million jobs, underpins business investment and generates substantial tax revenues that pay for essential public services;
- to help strengthen our international economic links, notably between UK and India;
- finally, to connect Parliament and key decision makers with 1.5 million British Indians - particularly the next generation.
How did it feel taking your oath on the 'Rig Veda'
I am humbled by the scale of reaction and avalanche of messages which I received when people learnt that I had taken my oath of allegiance on the 'Rig Veda'. It is the oldest of the four Vedas and the source of our Hindu culture and values. The verses of the 'Rig Veda' include a number of
about various "rights of passage" as someone goes through life, so it is a highly appropriate scripture for taking an oath. I was very fortunate to find a 167-year-old copy in the original Devanagari text, which I have now gifted to Parliament.