Seema Malhotra MP (left) with two manneqiuns ahead of Onam celebrations in the southern Indian state of Kerala. (Picture: Seema Malhotra MP)
AT a time when the Labour Party is stressing on deeper ties with India, its shadow business minister Seema Malhotra backed greater trade links between the UK and the south Asian nation on a visit to its two southernmost states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu recently.
The Feltham and Heston parliamentarian’s visit comes a few months after Labour leader Keir Starmer’s keynote speech at the India Global Forum’s annual UK-India Week summit in London where he laid out a serious relationship his party will seek with India if voted to power in the next election.
Malhotra’s visit also took place ahead of the G20 summit which will be held in New Delhi in September where top leaders of the grouping, including British prime minister Rishi Sunak will be present.
During the visit, she met and visited businesses, universities, colleges and diplomats to understand national and state-level priorities for the economy, business and trade, and areas of common interest.
A range of meetings were also organised by the Indian Business Network founded a few years ago and which work to support links with diaspora businesses across the UK and Tamil Nadu. She also addressed 300 students at the renowned Soka Ikeda women’s college in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, which is supporting many young women from rural families to attend college for the first time.
The Labour leader was joined by other representatives from the UK, including former journalist and Feltham Tamil Makkal coordinator Pushpakala Vinoth Kumar and City of London Common Councillor Rehana Ahmed, who also convened the UK India Friendship meet held at Chennai’s Amir Mahal Palace and hosted by the prince of Arcot, His Highness Nawab Mohammad Abdul Ali. Malhotra was the keynote speaker at the event.
It was also attended by senior business leaders from across a range of sectors; representatives from nearly 10 embassies, politicians, university vice chancellors, technologists and health care leaders.
UK deputy high commissioner Oliver Ballhatchet in Chennai was also present and addressed the occasion.
“A Labour government will want to work with India not only a free trade agreement but a new strategic partnership for global security, climate security, economic security. There are new opportunities – new technologies, new industries, new investments, where our interests clearly align,” Malhotra said.
“We want to see trade links not just from centre to centre, but from Indian regions to UK regions and nations – building on strengths like those of Tamil Nadu in the medical sector to life sciences clusters in the UK like Cambridge or the North East of England,” she added.
The Labour leader also highlighted the strength of the economic contribution of Indian businesses in the UK with this year’s Grant Thornton annual India Meets Britain Tracker identifying 954 Indian companies operating in the UK, with a combined revenue of £50.5 billion.
She also drew on the opportunities after the UK India Business Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Tamil Nadu in 2021, with the aim boosting business and industrial development in the Indian state and strengthening collaboration with British businesses there.
“I am pleased that alongside myself, senior figures from Labour’s top team are working with Indian-business led institutions in the UK, as well as visiting India. To hear what is important and how a strengthened partnership can build stronger links between our sectors and industry for the growth domestically and internationally of both our economies,” Malhotra added.
She also made a short trip to the neighbouring Kerala, India’s only communist-ruled state, and visited the UST campus, a global technology and professional services firm operating in the UK also and headquartered in the Indian state.
During the visit, she spoke with the officials about their innovation labs, research and development, company values and the growing impact of artificial intelligence.
She also spoke to senior women employees on her journey into politics and Labour’s plans for tackling women’s inequality in society and the workplace.