London, Jun 24 (PTI) The UK is a "steadfast friend" of India and the new British Prime Minister who takes over from Theresa May will ensure that strengthening the bilateral relationship is on the top of his agenda, secretary of state for work and pensions Amber Rudd said Monday.
The senior Conservative Party MP and minister in the UK Cabinet, who was the chief guest at the first-ever India Day at the Houses of Parliament complex in London, welcomed the event to launch UK-India Week 2019 as an important reminder of the need to be more ambitious with India-UK ties.
"I do hope that Jeremy Hunt will be our next Prime Minister and I know that he takes relations with India very seriously and it will certainly be top of his in-tray," said Rudd, in reference to the ongoing prime ministerial contest between UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.
"UK-India Week is a wonderful reminder of the ties the UK and India share. There is a need to be ambitious from the UK’s side, but one thing is certain that Britain is a steadfast friend of India and vice versa,” she said.
The India Day event, hosted by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam, and Indian-origin peer Lord Jitesh Gadhia, involved a special reception and high-profile roundtables between business executives and policymakers from both countries and the ruling Conservative Party and the Opposition Labour Party in the House of Lords complex in London.
"India Day and UK-India Week reflect the passion that exists in the UK for a good relationship with India. Recent FDI figures are proof that the interest of Indian businesses remains strong. Brexit or no Brexit, there is a confidence in the UK as a place to do business," said Ghanashyam.
Gadhia added: "The UK’s relationship with India is a litmus test for anyone who advocates a brighter future for the UK outside the European Union (EU).
"If we can’t win big with the largest Commonwealth nation, where English is the lingua franca of business; which uses a similar common law system and institutional frameworks; and where over 1.5 million members of the Indian diaspora in UK provide a ''Living Bridge'', then where are we going to secure the spoils of Brexit?”
UK-India Week will involve a series of events through the week to explore investment opportunities between the two countries, including a Leadership Summit in Buckinghamshire in south-east England between Tuesday and Thursday and concluding with UK-India Awards on Friday.
It also includes the launch of an all-women ‘100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations’ list of prominent women in both countries driving the bilateral relationship forward.
"UK India Week is about setting the pace for a new and exciting innings; where we grab the missed opportunities, and where we build a brilliant winning partnership," said Manoj Ladwa, Founder of India Inc. – the organisers of the annual UK-India Week.
Earlier, the House of Commons’ influential Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) had released its Global Britain and India inquiry report to mark India Day and flagged "missed opportunities" in the bilateral relationship.
"I will certainly be pressing the new Prime Minister to ensure the findings of the report are implemented to redefine and reawaken UK-India ties, especially now when the UK is at a crossroads as it prepares to leave the EU," said FAC Chair Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative Party MP who led the inquiry. PTI AK NSA