The living bridge between the United Kingdom and India is a strong link between the two nations that is only set to get stronger with trade ties in focus and people to people contact seeing a rise as travel curbs are lifted post the Covid-19 pandemic.
Christina Scott, the deputy high commissioner to India at the British High Commission in New Delhi, shared these views on UK-India relations during an interaction with journalists of Hindustan Times on her maiden visit to Chandigarh on Friday.
Scott, who took up her India assignment in October 2022 after a four-year tenure as UK’s deputy ambassador to China from September 2018 to July 2022, was accompanied by the British deputy high commissioner in Chandigarh, Caroline Rowett, who represents the UK in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chandigarh.
“The world is pivoting towards India that now holds the presidency of G20 and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). As for bilateral ties, any load-bearing relationship hinges on three pillars: Government to government contact where we have the roadmap to 2030 in place; trade that is a priority and at a robust £30bn; and vibrant people to people exchange in education, culture, technology, and tourism,” she said.
Headed for Shimla that has just emerged from an exciting assembly election, Scott said: “India’s vibrant democracy and diversity in culture, food, colour, spirituality and free expression where there are as many opinions as people, including the raucous debates, all make it an interesting place. People’s confidence, focus, business-minded approach and strong work ethics sum up their anything is possible attitude.”
Promising to visit Punjab on her next visit, she appreciated the clean air and greenery in Chandigarh and the Union Territory’s efforts to increase green cover by holding tree plantation drives.
On plans to start a direct flight between Chandigarh and Heathrow given the passenger traffic between Punjab and the UK, Rowett said the proposal is on track. “The travel restrictions due to the pandemic delayed plans but given the sustainability of this route, it is on track. Several companies have expressed interest to fly this route,” she said.
Rowett discussed joint plans for a sustainable environment, including the electric vehicle project in Patiala and partnership on sharing know-how to improve the transport system in a grid city like Chandigarh and hill town such as Shimla with Milton Keynes and a Scottish highland town in the UK, respectively.
On Thursday, Scott interacted with students at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Mohali, on senior executive leadership and management programme. She met CEOs of British and Indian technology companies and heard about their expansion plans and how their companies are strengthening business links across the region and the UK.
She also met the regional network of Chevening alumni. “Chevening is proving to be a fine example of the living bridge between our countries,” she said, encouraging journalists to apply for the scholarship next year.