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June - July 2008

Business Forum


“What a great pleasure it is to be here. I congratulate Labour Friends of India on everything that they do and to say, that for me, the pleasure of being here is all the much greater because of my visit to India very recently.

I first was made aware of everything that happens in India by my uncle. He went to India in the 1960s to be a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology. For the years that he was there and coming back and forward, I used to get slideshows of India, I used to get books about India, I got mementoes of India, I fell in love with India and everything I heard about its history and its people and its great struggles for the future. So, I was brought up from a very early age on how India was developing as a country.

Stephen PoundMP, president of the Labour Friends of India addressing the audience at the annual dinner

For this reason, it was a great pleasure to actually go back and be able to visit the Indian Institute of Technology, and to the University of Delhi to receive from them, and they were very kind, to offer me a honorary degree. To find out that there are now 300,000 students attached to that university, highlights just so much, that education in the whole of India is expanding.

I know from a previous visit to India, when I went to Mumbai, my visit was dominated by what was happening on Big Brother and Shilpa Shetty and attitudes in Britain to India, but on these occasions that I’ve been in India, I’ve been struck by the warmth and hospitality in Indian people, by the strength of relationships that are developing between our two countries, and by the importance of us doing more and more in the years to come to make the strategic partnership we have with India, even stronger for the future. And, that’s why I am so pleased that so many people who are making a contribution to relationships between Britain & India are here today.

Let me thank Stephen Pound for being the Chairman. He has been a fantastic Chairman for Labour Friends of India over the past five years and we are all very grateful to him for volunteering to do that. May I also thank Barry Gardiner for his vision of founding Labour Friends of India. Let me thank him for what he has done and what he continues to do. Let me thank all those who are sponsoring this event today, and I will not read out the full list that Stephen read out, but let me thank Virgin Atlantic, Deutsche Bank, Saffron Chase and ICICI Bank for what they’re doing and let me thank also Sewa International, the Hindu Forum of Britain, Muslim Council of Britain, and the Institute of Jainology for everything that they’re doing.

I want to thank a special number of individuals who support the work of Labour Friends of India and they do so directly and indirectly.

Lord Paul, my great friend for everything he has done. He was on the trip to India I had a few months ago, and he has been personally responsible for so much of the strengthening of relationships between our two countries.

Mr Barry Gardiner, founder president of Labour Friends of India’ explaining the role of the MPs in bringing India and Britain together in strategic partnership

And we are going to be greeted by another great friend of India very soon, Ken Livingstone. I want to thank Ken Livingstone because Ken Livingstone recognised the importance of sponsoring and championing diversity long before other people did so, and we all have great pleasure to owe him a great debt of gratitude.

I believe we are at a critical point in the global economy. When I went to India a few months ago, what I saw happening in India was something quite different from when I’d been there before. Before, we talked about India and the sort of jobs in the service sector and of course having a demanding sector in technology moving forward, but when I was in India a few weeks ago, what I saw was the power of Indian education starting to transform the world, and so instead of us competing with each other on the basis of income paid more, we’re working with each other on the basis of who has got the skills for the future.

It is not a low paid run economy we’re moving towards, it is a high skilled world economy, and India and Britain with their strategic partnership, have a huge role to play and I want India and Britain to work in even closer relationships in the times to come. When I was in India, we signed an agreement for greater university to university cooperation and we will be working with Prime Minister Singh to help build another 12 universities in India. We are closely working with the Indian Government to do so.

We signed an agreement so that we could cooperate on the environment. Both our countries have huge climate change challenges that we have got to meet. Prime Minister Singh recognised that the Stern report made a difference to the argument about what is happening in each country around the world and I now want to look forward to great cooperation on the environment as well. We talked about medical and scientific cooperation and how we can extend it with some of the great inventiveness and innovation that is coming out of India and that with our determination to sponsor science in the UK means that we can move forward also in scientific, and in cooperation in medicine. We talked about getting the chance to travel from India to Britain and Britain to India, so that young people at an early age could have more than I had - the slide shows about India. But they’ve got the chance to visit India and Indians have the chance to visit Britain, both huge exchanges for the future.

We also talked about the expansion of trade between our two countries, 20% rise in the amount of trade in one year, it just shows how much is going on between our two countries. And, of course, TATA was mentioned today. We are pleased we have great Indian companies buying into British industry, we are pleased we have great Indian companies taking over and investing in steel and in new technology, and there are many other ways that this cooperation can be extended in years to come.

One of the things I talked to Prime Minister Singh about, and to the Indian Ministers was about how we could help develop school education in India as well. Because as you know there are still six million children not going to school in India and that’s part of the 77 million children around the world who still need to have a right to schooling. What we said is that we will provide funds and development programmes to help get to that group of people, that group of young people, who are not going to school at the moment. The previous time I visited India, I was very pleased to see a number of projects where Britain and India were working together, and so that in time, and very soon, every young person in India as in Britain will have the right to basic schooling.

I’ve had the greatest of privileges in my education not only to hear about India but to study India. When I was growing up, I studied the life of Gandhi and I’ve written a bit about him in the last few months, I’ve got nothing but praise for the way that Gandhi was able to show that by changing people’s lives and by winning people’s minds to new ideas, that by winning people’s hearts, can actually change the whole course of history. What’s happening at the moment is incredibly important for the future of the world because we have a moment of opportunity now.

It is a moment of opportunity that will come and go unless we make the most of it and it’s a moment of opportunity to rebuild our global institutions in a manner that will make globalisation inclusive for all people across the world and that’s why when I was in America last week, I was saying to America that they must join us now in promoting the reform of the international institutions.

I believe that a Security Council without India cannot be a security council that is properly effective.

I believe that the G8 that discusses the world economy without involving the Indian voice cannot be a G8 that is properly discussing all details of what needs to be done in the world economy, and that’s why we need India involved in those discussions, as well. I believe India and Britain working together can make proposals to reform the international institutions in a way that will mean that globalisation will deliver benefits to the many and not the few.

We need an early warning system for the world economy, so we prevent the types of credit crunch we’ve had in the last few months, and that’s why we need an international institution that commands the support of the Asian continent, as well as Europe and America that can act. We need a World Bank for the environment to help us deal with environmental problems as well as development.

We need a United Nations that can deal with conflict resolution and the prevention of conflict in all the different parts of the world, from Rwanda to Darfur, where, to be honest, the international community has failed to do what is needed to be done.

So, I look forward to working with the Indian government and the Indian people in a major programme of reform of the international institutions that will recognise that, as we should do, the rise in importance of India in the world, but recognise also that India, Britain and other countries working together are the only means by which we can create the type of world that will give us all peace and prosperity and sustainable development.

In the 1940’s, great visionaries after the 2nd World War decided that we would reform the world and make it a better place. At that time, they said that prosperity needed to be sustained and to be shared, that prosperity and peace were indivisible, and they went on to create for example, the Marshall Plan in the 1940’s, that transferred the resources to the poorest countries of the time to enable them to reconstruct themselves as a result of the effects of the 2nd World War.

And now we need a global new deal between rich and poor that can release millions of people from poverty and yet can ensure that every child goes to school, that can eradicate what are preventable and avoidable diseases in the world, and just think what we can achieve by India and Britain working together. It is my dearest wish that with the cooperation of our two countries can not only be extended but will advance the world agenda that we are talking about. I know that the voices in India that I hear, want to do this, we are determined ourselves to work on this.

Let the friends of India send out a message that this partnership is stronger than ever and will strengthen in years to come. It will not simply be a partnership to develop India and Britain, it will be a partnership that will benefit the whole world.

That is our chance, and that is our challenge, and that, friends, is our opportunity.

Thank you, very much.”

Prime minister Gordon Brown together with prominent businessmen from Asian community listening attentively to the address of the presdient of the Labour Friends of India at their annual dinner

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