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UEA’s India@70 programme launches

Leaders from the UK and India involved in developing new academic and business relations will meet at the High Commission of India today to examine post-Brexit opportunities.

The roundtable session – ‘A New Interdependence: activating a new diplomacy between India and the UK’ – is convened jointly by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). Shailesh Vara MP and Dr Daniel Rycroft, chair of the India Dialogue group at UEA, will coordinate the session that inaugurates UEA’s India@70 programme.

Marking seven decades of the India-UK relationship and the current significance of the India-UK strategic partnership, it is envisaged that the programme will bring about new opportunities for engagement between business, academic, civil society and diplomacy partners.

UEA’s programme complements existing activities, such as the India-UK Year of Culture and FICCI’s new Forum of Parliamentarians. Dr Rycroft said the key objective of the inaugural session is to consider why the advocacy of ‘democracy, liberalism and a rules-based international order’ matters to each nation and to the wider world now.

Discussions in London on Monday will involve members of the High Commission of India, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), UK Parliamentarians, scholars and business leaders. Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, high commissioner of India to the UK, will deliver the keynote address that will set the tone for panels on the India-UK strategic partnership, on business diplomacy and on academic diplomacy. India’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Asoke Mukerji, will inaugurate the session, which also involves the United Nations Association (UK).

Dr Alwyn Didar Singh, secretary-general of FICCI, India’s largest and oldest apex business chamber, said: “FICCI has been at the forefront of business diplomacy for decades. It becomes important for us to consider the economic relations between the countries not just post-Brexit, but beyond Brexit. UEA’s programme is very timely and very exciting.”

Dr Rycroft, a senior lecturer at UEA, said: “The future of the India-UK relationship has rarely been as important as it is now.

“The current political climate is making people from many different sectors realise the long-term value of diplomacy, which doesn’t always have to operate on strictly a government-to-government basis. There’s capacity for the business and academic communities to complement these important discussions.

“Following the EU referendum and the triggering of Article 50, the prospect of increased India-UK cooperation must be seen now not only as an opportunity but as a necessity.”

Richard Everitt, head of education and society at the British Council, India, said that UEA’s India@70 initiative will help to define “a milestone year, and one that we are celebrating with a range of events to support the India-UK Year of Culture.” 

Dr Rycroft said: “It is essential that our international relations and our global outlooks are given a new lease of life post-Brexit. We live in an interdependent world, and universities have a responsibility to ensure that this idea resonates clearly and that it holds true at all levels.”