75 YEARS OF UK INDIA RELATIONS
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of India's independence from the UK, we'll look at India's growth and the development of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Out from under the shadow of British rule emerged a new, forward-thinking India. It formed an independent, secular, democratic republic that chose to remain within the Commonwealth.
And so, India began a journey towards economic and social development, prosperity, and a stable nation over the last 75 years.
Early Days of Independence
During the early days of independence, India was reliant on international food aid. But, years of good planning and governance have seen India's agriculture sector become the country's economic backbone.
About 18% of the nation's GDP comes from agriculture, which employs around 60% of the workforce. India is now the largest producer of bananas, mangos, milk and papaya. Additionally, it is the second-largest producer of wheat, potatoes, tea and sugar cane.
Space and Technology
India has emerged as one of the leading centres for producing tech and mathematics graduates in recent years. Over recent decades, the explosion of technology in the country can be demonstrated by its ambitious space programs — including the Chandrayaan 2 moon landing.
Of course, the IT and tech industries are also big markers of India's growth. A recent McKinsey report suggests that the Indian IT sector will be worth around $300-$350 in the next five years. The paper goes on to state that this forms a remarkable growth of 7.5% year on year.
Another notable success for India over the last 75 years are the programs that achieved 100% household electrification in 25 states. Additionally, Indian Railways are one of the world's largest and densest transport systems, moving around 9 billion passengers and 1bn tonnes of freight per year.
UK-India Relations Move Closer
After some years of tension and missed opportunities, the 21st century has seen UK-India relations improve. Since 1947, there has been a paradoxical push and pull between the nations. With many Indians living and working in the UK, the ties between both countries became closer. Yet, the legacy of colonialism understandably created some suspicion and ill feelings.
In 2015, the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that relations between the two countries were not being explored to their full potential. Successive visits by Cameron and then Theresa May were notable for their repentance and acknowledgement of the colonial past.
Then, with the UK leaving the European Union, it sought to realign itself globally. Special relations with the US and India were thought to be strategically sound for several reasons, such as defence and the economy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have moved to deepen UK-India ties in recent months. The countries shared history, and deep ties have set the scene for a potential golden age in relations.
The road map calls for increased cooperation on climate change, defence, education, health, science and technology. Agreement across these essential issues will transform the current bilateral ties into a "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership". With China emerging as a force within Asia, India represents a natural ally for the UK in the Indo-Pacific area.
The ties between both countries make sense. More Indian businesses are operating in the UK than the entire rest of Europe. Additionally, 1.6m Indians live in the UK, making them the largest ethnic minority in the country. Indeed, some of the biggest names in UK politics like Rishi Sunak, Pritti Patel, and Sajid Javid are of Indian origin.
As Indian suffered a deep COVID-19 crisis, the UK underlined the close relationship between both countries by flying out much-needed oxygen and ventilators.
In 75 short years, India has transformed itself into a global power. An emerging economy, skilled graduates, technological advancement, and a sophisticated space program are just some of the republic's achievements in the three-quarter century.
As the UK left the European Union, it has looked to deepen its ties with India. A mutually beneficial agreement, with a possible Free Trade deal, will ensure prosperous relations between the countries on a fiscal and cultural level. With India set to become one of the world biggest economies, the republic’s influence of the UK is set to grow.