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London is critical to Indias infrastructure challenge
India and Britain share a partnership that has evolved over time to encompass nearly every aspect of the political and economic spectrum. Navtej Sarna, India's relatively new diplomat to take charge of the crucial UK posting, takes time out to weigh up the scenario for his tenure. India and the UK enjoy a multi-level partnership and a very broad engagement. This historic relationship between the two countries was transformed into a Strategic Partnership in 2004. Indeed, this was in some ways a mere symbolic acknowledgement of the depth and breadth of this relationship that transcends social, cultural, technological, economic and strategic dimensions. Illustrative of this, the Prime Ministers of our two countries have visited each other′s countries at regular intervals, the latest being the visit by Prime Minister Modi to the UK in November 2015. This visit was especially significant, given the fact that it laid down the framework for future collaboration across many spheres in a Vision Statement that included, inter-alia, an agreement to hold biennial Prime Minister level summits to follow up on the various aspects of this relationship. The visit saw the signing of a new Defence and International Security Partnership with the aim to intensify cooperation on defence and security, including cyber security, counter terrorism, and maritime security. A Joint Statement on Energy and Climate Change and a Statement of Intent to scale up bilateral cooperation to a global partnership for development cooperation in third countries were also issued during this visit.
The visit re-emphasised the criticality of the role of the City of London in channelling investments into Indian infrastructure projects, leveraging its capital and expertise. Other key outcomes were the announcement of the issue of the first government-backed Rupee Bond, and several eminent private sector entities (including HDFC, Bharti Airtel, State Bank of India and Yes Bank) announced their plans to raise finance through the City of London. This relationship has assumed greater importance in light of the comprehensive reform processes initiated by the government of India in recent years. This process lays great emphasis on policy reforms, procedural simplification and rationalisation and active global outreach. In all this, the government has kept in sight the twin goals of growth and macro-economic stability in an environment vulnerable to global economic conditions. The government's focussed action, together with the key campaigns like Make in India, Skill in India, Digital India, Start-up India, and others have made India a particularly attractive destination for investment by investors globally. Strenuous efforts are being made to move India higher in the scale of ease of doing business. The UK has, over the years, been an important partner in the Indian growth story. Bilateral mechanisms like India-UK Economic & Financial Dialogue (EFD) and India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) form the basis of institutional engagements between the two countries together aiming to strengthen the financial and economic relationship between the two countries. Further, the India-UK Financial Partnership (IUKFP) continues to work towards strengthening the financial services link between the two countries, and between London and Mumbai. During the visit of the PM to the UK, the India-UK CEO's Forum was also revived and reconstituted. While the India-UK bilateral trade has demonstrated ample resilience even in difficult times like the Euro zone crisis, I believe that the leaders of our countries rightly estimate that potential for expansion of bilateral trade and investment is much more than the current numbers reveal. The High Commission in its various interactions with UK partners has continued to the highlight the possibility of the UK investing in India in identified sectors, like power, water and river cleaning, digital infrastructure, smart cities and economic corridors, establishment of Centres of Excellence in skill development and entrepreneurship, defence, automobile industry, engineering products, textiles, chemicals, food processing, pharmaceuticals, advance engineering, etc. Simultaneously, the UK has some areas of strength that can interest Indian companies and entrepreneurs. I think that such areas include advanced engineering, aerospace, agriculture technology, infrastructure, retail, communications, financial services and information and communication technology. Of late, the Indian vision of radically enhancing installed capacity of renewable energy may find great convergence with the UK's progress in wave, tidal and off-shore wind power industry. In this sector, India and UK share strategic priorities. Both countries have pledged to work together following the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015 and UK has supported the Indian initiative for an International Solar Alliance (ISA). The importance of climate finance, especially sourced through the City of London could play a major role towards low cost, long-term finance to deliver India's renewable energy ambitions. We intend to continue to work closely with various stakeholders in ensuring maximum benefits to our two economies from mutual engagement in these spheres, and we repose great confidence in our future ahead. Navtej Sarna is the Indian High Commissioner to the UK and author of a number of books, the most recent being 'Second Thoughts: On Books, Authors and the Writerly Life'.