Day Four of UK-India Week 2022, organised by the UK-headquartered India Global Forum (IGF), marked the culmination of The Forum: Reimagine@75, with a high-profile line-up of speakers led by senior ministers from both governments at the Taj Hotel in London.
Over a power-packed day, lawmakers, business leaders and influential commentators and administrators from both nations set forth the way forward for dialogue between both nations around the central theme of Reimagine@75. Among the highlights was a session on Post-Covid Healthcare Delivery, with Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, and Rt Hon Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, UK Government.
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, UK Government said “India is one of our oldest friends and our relationship has never been stronger. One important area UK-India are working together on is anti-microbial resistance.
“India has helped us with vaccines. When India saw a big surge, we were able to help with PPE kits. India and the UK working together will be much better prepared for future healthcare risks. Covid was a catalyst for change in terms of digital use in healthcare and that will build up further.”
Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, said: “With Covid, healthcare and emergency crisis management has emerged as another important collaboration area in an already strong UK-India healthcare partnership. Covid-19 has highlighted the need to build resilient health infrastructures.
“PM Modi’s Ayushman Bharat mission is geared towards that. Under Ayushman Bharat, 150,000 health and wellness centres are being established. India adopted a graded approach in dealing with the once in a century crisis of Covid-19. We created dedicated infrastructure and capacity building of healthcare staff. We have created a dedicated infrastructure for the management of Covid 19”.
The Forum opened with a diaspora living bridge focus, with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel saying:
“India Global Forum is the forum that actually brings two countries together, very much on the people side. We are rooted together – culturally, people, education, skills and economy.
“I think the Quantum Leap, coined by PM Modi, is a great phrase. It stretches the imagination and that’s exactly what we should be doing. The DNA of India and the United Kingdom is deeply ambitious.”
A Redefining Trade Relationships segment included insights from Lord Karan Bilimoria, President, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) as well as engaging conversations on investment with a roadmap till 2030 with Deepak Bagla, CEO, Invest India, followed by a discussion with the Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, on a new era of UK-India trade relations.
Commenting on an upcoming FTA, the Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan said “Our nations’ ties have really matured over the last 75 years. We are taking this productive relationship to a new level with a free trade agreement. An agreement will mark a major step in a new direction for the 21st century.
“This FTA deal could offer us unique opportunities. The FTA is a major step forward but that’s not the only way we are seeking for progress in the UK-India relationship; building partnerships that benefit the environment and our economies. For UK businesses, access to an economy projected to be third largest by 2050, a population of 1.4 billion people could be transformative. An agreement could provide room for growth.”
She further added: “We are also concentrating on removing those trade barriers that can hinder businesses from exporting. This will be a fantastic FTA for the UK. There are opportunities for our businesses to find new markets, and take the best of the British brands to India.”
Prof. Manoj Ladwa, Founder and CEO of IGF, said: “We are proud that over the last two days, The Forum: Reimagine@75 brought together the most influential voices from both nations to discuss the way forward for both nations. It is a tribute to the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship of both nations as we chart out a course for mutual collaboration and benefits.
“At IGF, we have always tried to further the UK-India dialogue and The Forum remains a landmark in our quest towards enabling the most effective and freewheeling conversations between both nations.”
The two-day Forum, at the heart of UK-India Week, has had an excellent array of conversations featuring industry leaders, pioneering entrepreneurs, and lawmakers.
Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, OLA said: “The biggest challenges for us as a society are climate change and energy security for countries like India. Mobility is at the heart of this new challenge. I believe in the next decade or two, some of the biggest innovations will happen in the field of energy and mobility.
“The beauty of the India-UK partnership is that it’s based on shared values and aspirations. There’s a lot of synergy. Over the last decade, the products built by companies has been dominated by luxury vehicles. Markets like India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America need a different set of products. We are building products that are focused on India.”
During a fascinating debate on the idea of Great Britain, parliamentarian and author Dr Shashi Tharoor said: “We have been hearing some very positive noises on a UK-India free trade agreement (FTA). There has got to be a bit of give on both sides. I can see a global Britain trading on equal terms – give and take – with partners around the world”.
On an important aspect of that FTA, Ivan Menezes, CEO, Diageo, reflected: “With the free trade agreement, we hope for greater access for Scotch whisky as the potential is significant. Alcohol taxes are a big source of revenue which support development and education that the state governments must do. Our big hope is that we will see the removal of tariffs on scotch whiskey.
“Lots of other luxury products have lower taxes than scotch whiskey; India is an outlier in terms of how high the tariffs are – 150 percent. Reducing the tariffs will enable the exchequers at the state and central level to make more money. You will create more jobs, and you will reduce the illicit markets”.
During a session on looking into the future of UK-India ties, T.V. Mohandas Pai, Co-founder & Chairman, Aarin Capital, said: “We are seeing a digital revolution in play led by India’s young people in tech. UK & India should build a digital hi-tech partnership and create collaborative hubs between India and UK along with a network for joint R&D.
“We have 104 unicorns who have created $400 billion of value with 20 unicorns coming this year. By 2025, we will have 250 unicorns. We will be a trillion-dollar digital economy in the start-up ecosystem. We have 5 million people working in technology. By 2030, we will have 15-18 million technology people working across India. We are hiring 1.5 million people in technology this year and next year.”