We excerpt here content sent our way by Red Ribbon India, on just how important India seems to be, to the United Kingdom. We are reproducing the mini-article verbatim for your reading pleasure …
The Queen of England learnt a new dance this month – she was taught the Indian Mudras (hand gestures), by celebrated Indian dancer and choreographer Arunima Kumar – and in keeping with the dignity of the occasion, the lesson was conducted in the State Room at the Buckingham Palace. “We brought Indian Art into Buckingham Palace,” announced Ms. Kumar proudly afterwards. Not for the first time you might be thinking … people have been bringing Indian Art back to the United Kingdom for centuries.
The Prince of Wales had set off on a four-month tour of the subcontinent in 1875, and he had managed to bring back a spectacular amount of Indian Art: no less than seventyfour precious artefacts from the toshkhanas (personal treasuries) of each of the 21 Provinces he had travelled through; including a seventeenth century gold Durbar Set from Mysuru and a sixteenth century jade attardan from Jaipur (the largest ever made). They have been in the Royal Collection ever since, but you will be able to see them at the Victoria and Albert Museum this summer, as part of the UK India Year of Culture 2017 celebrations. The Queen’s dancing lesson this month formed part of the inaugural events. And it was no coincidence that the most senior representative of the Indian Government watching Her Majesty dance was Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The United Kingdom and India have a richly textured history reaching back to the days of the East India Company, and that relationship is now being radically refashioned as part of Britain’s post Brexit world. Given the UK India Year of Culture is part of the same process it seems wholly appropriate that the Finance Minister of India should have been there to see it on its way.
India overtook the United Kingdom as the World’s fifth largest economy in December last year, and it is currently the fastest growing economy on the Planet. Little wonder then that Theresa May’s first foray overseas, after the EU Referendum last year was to India … and less wonder still that her visit coincided with the launch of a new generation of ten-year Rupee Bonds being traded on London’s Capital Markets. Historic ties and a resurgent economy give India a special significance for the United Kingdom in the post Brexit world.
But just how important is all this for India? It is a question well worth asking, especially at the moment, because today’s cultural icons, the equivalent of the sixteenth century jade attardan from Jaipur, are social media, the telecoms and the internet: and they have all been holding up pretty nicely on the subcontinent; primarily, of course, through the vaulting ambitions of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.
It would be an understatement of titanic proportions to say that Ambani surprised the business world when he launched Jio Telecom in India last September, with a colossal initial investment of UK£ 25 Billion; allowing its burgeoning population to secure (initially free) access to data spectra on a wholly unprecedented scale. In the past six months alone Jio has signed up 100 Million new customers and is now carrying more data than either China Mobile or AT&T; and bear in mind too that the population on the subcontinent is predicted by the United Nations to be the biggest in the World by 2020, so it is difficult to underestimate the future growth potential of its telecom sector. For the moment at least, Jio is uniquely well placed to reap the benefits of that growth.
All of which might explain why Vodafone has this month announced its long awaited merger with Idea Cellular (India’s third largest telecom supplier); not least because Jio plans to start charging its 100 Million (and growing) customers for its services from 1st April this year, so it looks as though a price war could be in the offing. It should all get very interesting for both key players and for the sector generally; but as we have had cause to comment before, there are no fleas on a dead dog.
Vodafone is a United Kingdom company with operations worldwide; and the Group is being drawn deeper into India for the simple reason that India obviously matters (for a whole range of reasons, not least its huge potential for growth); and the same can be said of other substantial United Kingdom companies investing into India in other key sectors at this critical juncture in its economic development. This is all about these companies seeking to share in the steady release of India’s explosive economic potential. It is, in short, about something much more than diplomacy and post Brexit trade missions. Something more even than a courtly dance at Buckingham Palace.