With the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union less than a year away, India has been described as one of the UK’s most vital partners. Mr Modi, it will be you, in conjunction with our Government in the UK who will play a crucial part in setting the agenda for a brighter and more prosperous relationship between the two countries. Your visit in April 2018 will be another step in the synthesis of the “UK-India Dream”. Just like the process of making the perfect cup of chai (tea), the relationship between the UK and India requires a variety of well-balanced ingredients to play their role to create a warm, uplifting and smooth relationship.
Among one of the most important ingredients to create the perfect blend would be the interaction between the millennial generations of both countries. The millennial generation has been described as the “hybrid of golden worlds so splendidly conceived” and I believe will play an instrumental role in the future trajectory of the two nations.
At present, the relationship is far from balanced due to what I call “the interest gap challenge”. In an Ipos Mori Poll, 74% of young, educated Indians said that they knew a “great deal” or “fair amount” about the UK, only 21% of their UK counterparts could say the same. The poll also showed that less than 15% of young people in the UK have participated in specific Indian programmes, cultural events or exhibitions compared to a third of their Indian counterparts.
I believe that it will be the millennials who will be tasked with driving the relationship between the two countries. In order to keep the millennial generation engaged and enthused, sustained action is needed to ensure the two countries remain practically relevant and important in the lives of both British and Indian millennials.
It is on this basis, I set out my wish list inspired by the British Millennials (many of whom form part of the Indian Diaspora).
1. The development of a UK-India Millennial Leaders Programme in conjunction with the Indian High Commission and UK Foreign Office which could provide a platform to mentor, train and establish leaders across a variety of professions from both countries. The programme could meet annually to discuss the themes of cooperation and collaboration.
2. Establish a closer working relationship between the UK Youth Parliament and Indian Youth Parliament which will provide a means for young future leaders of both countries to build early rapports with each other.
3. With more British Millennials setting up businesses, the next logical step would be to liberalise the Indian Legal Industry. If India is going to be the destination of big business and start-ups alike, their international legal teams will need to follow and set up in areas beyond the special economic zone in India. It is believed that liberalising the Indian legal market is key to establishing a connection with the British millennials.
4. Enhancing Indian and British Arts initiatives in both countries. Just as New York’s Broadway and London’s West End enjoy a strong working relationship could the next ten to fifteen years witness a Mumbai and London stage production and theatrical association? Further, just as the Chinese and Moscow State Circuses have had a profound impact on communities throughout the UK, perhaps the All India State Circus or derivation of it portraying the rich and diverse heritage of India could be welcomed to the shores of the United Kingdom.
5. The Indian High Commission to be more millennial focussed. Whilst, the Indian High Commission under the leadership of His Excellency Y.K Sinha, has perhaps been more engaged and active than ever before, there is scope for more activities hosted by the Indian High Commission which is focused on the millennials. For example, perhaps an initiative such as “The High Commissioner’s Speakers Programme”, where representatives of the High Commission can attend university campuses in the UK to promote the work, successes and solutions to challenges which exist in India. Further the Indian High Commission could organise sector specific groups and workshops from millennials across the United Kingdom to gain a broad range of ideas on how to create deeper and more lasting relations between the two countries.
I appreciate the above suggestions require the cooperation of both the UK and Indian Governments. I very much hope your trip in the United Kingdom is a success and that the two countries as well on their way to create the “UK-India Dream”.