Shropshire Star

Celebrating India’s relationship with the West Midlands on Republic Day

Today marks India's Republic Day. India's UK High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami celebrates its links to the West Midlands:

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High Commissioner

To many, January 26 may feel like just another day at the end of long, cold month. But to 1.4 billion Indians, it is one of the most important days of the year. For it is India's Republic Day: the annual anniversary of the entry into force of our Constitution, making India a republic and a democracy – the world’s largest and most diverse.

Our constitution remains the most fundamental guardrail for our Republic and the roadmap for us to achieve our goal of enabling every single citizen to realise their legitimate aspirations. It is also a reminder of the values and ethics by which we aspire to live, and a lasting symbol of those helped us gain independence.

As India’s High Commissioner in the UK, Republic Day is also an occasion to celebrate UK-India relations. We are in a period of strong and sustained cooperation, reflected in the deep business, cultural and educational ties between our nations and the fact we may soon achieve a comprehensive, mutually beneficial trade deal. It points to the hope that 2024 will be a landmark year in a long, unique and valuable relationship.

India is currently in a phase of exceptional political, social, and economic growth. Ours is the world's fastest growing large economy, defying a less positive global economic context, and our stock market is now the world’s fourth largest. Our country is gearing up for a general election in 2024, with over 900 million people eligible to vote. In parallel, India Inc is becoming increasingly global: our firms are expanding operations and investing around the world, including in the UK where India is the second largest investor. Indian culture is reaching ever more people, beginning with the ubiquitous curries and Tandoori cuisine and moving on to embrace the arts and even our colourful film industry. A good example of that is the success of the film RRR, which in 2023 became only the second non-English-language film to be considered for an Oscar and won one.

India is looking to build on its massive domestic use of digital technologies to turbo-charge socio-economic development using pioneering innovation in areas such as Digital Public Infrastructure, financial inclusion, technological innovation, and our space missions. The latter is justly famous, especially after we became the first country to successfully land a spacecraft near the south pole of the moon last August. Looking ahead, we intend to invest in and partner with countries and businesses that share our ambition – many of them in the UK, including the West Midlands.

On almost every measure – culture, business, technology, and trade – the West Midlands stands out.

According to the West Midlands Growth Company, a regional investment promotion agency, India overtook the United States as the region’s primary source of international investment in 2022, and the appetite for foreign direct investment (FDI) is only expected to grow. In total, WMGC estimated that 76 Indian firms brought foreign direct investment projects to the region, worth over £3.5bn and thus creating some 13,000 jobs over the past decade.

The region is one of the UK’s most established and fastest-growing tech sectors outside of London.

For Indian tech firms and scale-ups looking to grow, the West Midlands offers a route into the UK market via the West Midlands Global Growth Programme, aimed at encouraging international businesses to operate in the region through funding support. The West Midlands’ innovative Future Mobility sector also provides Indian businesses with the tools to prototype, design, and trial connected, autonomous cars. The presence of Indian automobile giants like Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover in the region is a testament to the strength of this opportunity.

In other areas of technology, Indian gaming companies are taking advantage of the West Midlands’ cutting-edge strengths in VR, AR, AI and Cyber-Security – as well as the region’s status as the UK’s only 5G multi-city testbed – to develop and prototype exciting new gaming products and technologies. In digital healthcare strategy, more Indian MedTech and data-driven healthcare firms are recognising the excellent collaboration opportunities available to them in the region, including the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory – the largest genetics lab in the UK.

As Andy Street, Mayor of Birmingham has put it, India is “disproportionately important” to the West Midlands, and the feeling in India is mutual: The West Midlands exercises significant cultural and economic importance for India. The significant Indian diaspora, estimated to be the second-largest Indian origin group in the UK, ensured that there will always remain a strong and lasting economic and social relationship.

2024 will be a crucial year for India’s relationship with the West Midlands and the broader UK.

During trade talks, the region will undoubtedly represent an area of incredible importance to bilateral relations. The region’s educational and technological excellence, combined with deep cultural and social ties, means Indian businesses will continue to invest to the mutual benefit of both countries. Republic Day is an opportunity to take stock of that and pledge to do even better in the year ahead.

“And so, to all Indians and British friends of India, colleagues in London and Birmingham, I wish you a happy and peaceful Republic Day, and I look forward to scripting a bright new chapter in UK-India relations.”

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