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UK India Leaders Conference 2023 at UK Parliament in London

As India and the UK enter the final rounds of Free Trade Agreement negotiations, signing the FTA still seems to be a goal that is yet to be reached. Just in time for the 8th round of discussions scheduled in March, EICBI hosted a panel discussion at the UK Parliament


The session began with an opening speech by Abhishek Tripathi, Vice-Chair for events. This was followed by a welcome note by Sujit Nair, Chairperson of Europe India Centre for Business and Industry, who put forth the agenda for the day and the topics that will be discussed during the conference.


After this, Lord Rami Ranger, who was the Chief Guest of the conference shared his thoughts with the delegates. He began with his experience as a young man in a country, discussing the cultural shock and how he had to establish himself, emphasizing the importance of ideas, people, and investment. Lord Ranger explained how the UK provides opportunities and is welcoming, diverse, and inclusive. He continued on the lines of opportunity and going the extra mile to contribute to the nation, which would be a positive motivation to push for an FTA between India and the UK. He added the role of startups and small businesses in creating alliances, markets, and political relations. He concluded with a note on the role of women in nation-building in recognition of Women's History Month.


Following Lord Ranger's speech, two panel discussions were held.


The first panel discussion was regarding UK India Free Trade Agreements: Insights and Opportunities and this session were moderated by Dr Monomita Nandy, who is the Director of Internationalization for Brunel Business School, Brunel University. The panelists who were part of the discussions included Mr David Bozward (Director of Employability and Entrepreneurship, Global Banking School), Ms Abhilasha Dafria (CEO – Angels Den), and Mr Padma Kumar (MD, PK Flight Gallery equipment Ltd). They discussed the dynamic economic ties that could boost the startup ecosystem, India's mass market vs. the UK's developed market, and how investment in India would be an intellectual partnership investment. Furthermore, they discussed how the education industry could be key in cultural and network building with student exchange, followed by the aviation industry, the shortage of skills, bureaucracy, notions, accessibility, and alternatives in terms of import and export. The first panel discussion concluded with an open question regarding the FTA deal and the subsequent delays in its signing. Padma Kumar, answering to this question, suggesting the plausibility of foreign policy, international sanctions, human rights, and environmental welfare, while Councillor Arien suggested the difference in the internets and the alliance-based influences.


The second panel discussion was India UK 75 : past, present, and future and this was moderated by Dr Chithra Ramakrishnan, who is Director, ShruthiUK. The other panelists included Mr Tony Gimple (Chairman, Sparton Fund), Dr Suman Lodh (Associate Professor, Kingston University London), Councillor Aarien Uday Areti, and Councillor Philip Abraham. The panel discussed diplomacy, evolution of arts, Indian diasporia, and cultural ties.

Dr Suman Lodh's out forth the discussion on decolonization of academia, a sustainability model as a mandate for companies, and how fashion, film, and the IT industry bond with cultural aspects. Tony Gimple discussed the partition, immigration, linguistic commonality, and the shared approach of the commonwealth. Followed by Councillor Aarien's comments on the Indian constitution, supply chain, and SMEs. Councillor Philip Abrahams' shared his thoughts on liberalization, FDI, and mergers.


Attendees were given the opportunity to pose questions to the panelists. The topics of discussion revolved around the post-pandemic drive in terms of partnership and FTA, COP targets, channelized collaboration, geopolitics, statistics vs. reality, identity and ethnicity, leveling the playground, encouragement for student inclusion, and credit equivalence.


Overall, the panel discussions provided an excellent platform for policymakers, industry leaders, and academics to discuss key issues and challenges facing India-UK relations. The discussions focused on various areas of cooperation such as trade, investment, education, cultural ties, and technology. The discussions were informative, engaging, and thought-provoking, providing valuable insights and recommendations for policymakers and business leaders to strengthen bilateral relations.

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