UK-India 2020 Priorities: Part 2 – The areas where PM to PM engagement can make a difference

By Kevin McCole

In part one of this blog I set out: why it is important that the UK and Indian Prime Ministers lead a revitalised bilateral partnership; broadly, what UK and Indian businesses want from the UK Government; the need for both governments to be clear minded, responsive, and engaged; and some of the context to the bilateral relationship. In part two, I will go into more detail on some of the areas where PM to PM engagement can make a difference.

These areas cover a range of sectors, all with a sharp focus on innovation, technology, and collaboration. Each of which will create jobs and prosperity in both the UK and in India.

There is a huge two-way interest in higher education collaboration. The game-changer would be an India-UK Mutual Recognition of Qualifications Agreement. Supplement this with the Indian Government allowing more international universities to partner with more Indian institutions, and the results would be: a stronger flow of students, academics and researchers between the two countries; an expansion in quality and quantity of India’s HE provision; and India becoming an international education destination. The benefits to both countries’ innovation ecosystems and to the people-to-people connections would be tremendous.

There is much more that can be done on defence collaboration. The UK Government should play a more-direct role than its predecessors, and India should further relax its FDI restrictions. These steps would grow the UK’s role in India’s defence and accelerate the indigenisation of India’s defence procurement. Advancing the manufacturing sector in India promises to take India’s economy to the next level as it has significant job-generation potential.

The UK and India should partner more to develop the healthcare systems in both countries. Delivering Ayushman Bharat, the world’s largest government-funded healthcare insurance scheme, will benefit over 500 million people in India. Ayushman Bharat will also increase demand for pharmaceuticals. In order to augment supply, there is an argument that India would benefit from the experiences of international partners in designing a regulatory framework for drug pricing. This would ensure the sustainable and affordable availability of pharmaceuticals for Indian citizens.

There is a strong case for an India-UK Common Data Agreement (CDA), which will enable the UK and India to partner to drive, together, the fourth industrial revolution. It is important that future trade relationships are built on the reciprocity that a CDA provides. Transforming India’s immense data cache into AI solutions will revolutionise sectors as diverse as healthcare, education, and agriculture. A transparent data protection framework enforced by an independent and tech-savvy Data Protection Authority will maximise trust and enable the UK and India to lead the world in technology and innovation.

Finally, India would benefit tremendously by opening its services sector. For example, the penetration of personal insurance in India is still low, but FDI liberalisation would bring billions of pounds of investment into India, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and introduce innovations that will spread insurance services to hundreds of millions of people.

The issues above are not exhaustive, for instance there are significant untapped opportunities for the UK and India to collaborate on a range of other sectors, such as food and drink, media and entertainment, and sport.

A focus by the Governments on these significant areas will make a difference. Not just economically, but to broader society in terms of better healthcare and education outcomes.

In part three of this blog, my colleague Kealan Finnegan and I will consider two major multilateral summits in 2020 at which the UK and India can, and should, play leading roles, combining forces to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.

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