The Mayor of West Midlands celebrates new direct air connectivity between the Birmingham and Amritsar and various tie-ups struck during a recent visit to the country.
I have been to India many times, as a traveller and as a buyer when I was CEO of John Lewis. India has always fascinated me: the hustle and bustle, the hidden gems and the never-ending traffic! I have just returned from India but this time I went for the first time as Mayor of the West Midlands.
I represent 2.8 million people, 200,000 of whom are of Indian origin. India is also an important investor in the West Midlands, primarily through Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Tata Motors. It is therefore very important that as a region we are able to maintain and advance this relationship.
That's why I was extremely pleased when Air India announced that it was starting the first-ever direct flight from Amritsar to Birmingham, the only place in the United Kingdom to have a direct flight. I had the pleasure of being on the beautiful Air India Dreamliner from Amritsar to Birmingham and no need to change at Delhi! It is serving the Punjabi community in the Midlands really well and I was pleased to meet Minister Sidhu, the Minister of Aviation, in Delhi, to discuss the obvious success of this flight but also to talk about more routes and increasing the capacity from Birmingham to hubs all over India. As well as Pune we are looking to explore other cities in India - watch this space.
Prime Ministers Modi and May met at CHOGM this April and signed the UK-India Tech Partnership. I had a meeting with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) members in Delhi and they were very excited about the potential of this Partnership and of the upcoming Tech Fest. I am looking forward to working with especially the Youth CII (young business people with amazing and innovative solutions) on developing links with West Midlands businesses.
The most exciting thing for me was the specific commitment to create a Partnership between the Midlands and Maharashtra and I was pleased to go to India with the Midlands Engine Chairman, Sir John Peace, and the Ministerial Champion for the Midlands Engine, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP. In Pune we met not only Tata but also Bharat Forge, who has invested in the MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton. We had the pleasure of discussing the new Partnership with the Pune Municipal Authority and Pune Smart Cities and it is true that there is so much we have in common.
Everything from transport infrastructure to the challenge of creating liveable cities, the reliance on the automotive sector and the need to innovate fast were all discussed. There is a lot work to be done to make sure that results come from all of these interactions. Fortunately, we have a very able Deputy High Commissioner in Maharashtra in Crispin Simon and I am looking forward to developing the blueprint for the Partnership with him. The future of mobility will come faster and more cheaply if we work together and don't waste time on duplication . Together we can come to solutions and ideas that we can't do alone.
The next phase of this work is the trade delegation going to Pune in January next year. I would strongly encourage all firms in the Midlands in the automotive and advanced manufacturing industry to go on the delegation, you will be surprised at how much scope there is for trade, joint research and investment into each other's markets.
India has always been a friend of the West Midlands. Through our governments there is a chance to deepen the relationship for generations to come.
Andy Street is the Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, made up of the local councils of the West Midlands region of England.