India Inc. hosted the inaugural UK-India Awards in London, where senior British and Indian ministers called for closer ties in a post-Brexit scenario.

London: UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pushed for a speedy conclusion of a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the UK at the inaugural UK-India Awards in London on May 12.

“Whenever we go to India, we have to pack bottles of whisky because as you know there is a duty of 150 per cent in India on Scotch whisky. But imagine what we could do if there was a free trade deal with India,” Johnson told a packed audience of high-profile parliamentarians, entrepreneurs and senior executives.

India’s Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, has described the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) Masala Bond debut on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as a sign of India’s growing attraction among global investors.

The rupee-denominated National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Masala Bond issued with much fanfare by the Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari, in London recently marks the largest ever five-year issuance and has been described as the “largest inaugural transaction in the Masala Bond market”.

The month of May has been packed with a very wide range of developments, including the first-ever UK-India Awards organised by India Inc. in London on May 12. The event was preceded by the annual UK-India Conclave, this time on the theme of ‘A Global Partnership: A New Era in UK-India Relations’.

Both events became the focal point for senior Indian ministers on visits to the UK earlier this month to promote India as an attractive investment destination. We cover these in our special ‘From the Scene’ section as well as a ‘Face to Face’ feature tracking Indian Minister for Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal’s success on his investment scouting mission and a ‘Special Report’ on Indian Minister for Roads Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari’s plans to work closely with the UK on India’s infrastructure challenge. Both ministers listed very crucial Masala Bonds on the London Stock Exchange, developments that we delve into as part of our coverage of their visits to Europe.

The Year 2017 had been ear-marked as UK India Year of Culture by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his tour of Britain in November 2015. That announcement became a reality when Indian Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley, represented the Government of India at a historic reception in Buckingham Palace in London recently.

While the year is set to be packed with an array of cultural events, both in India and the UK, the key message amid all the glitz and glamour is a familiar one: that India is crucial to the British economy, which is on the brink of breaking away from the European Union (EU).

Priti Patel took charge of the UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID) at a time when the country’s aid programme for India was evolving from the traditional hand-outs system to a more collaborative one. ‘India Investment Journal’ caught up with the minister as she completed six months in Britain’s Cabinet.

“We don’t give traditional aid to India but if we look at the facts – the UK is one of the largest investors in India and India is one of the largest investors in Britain. India invests more in the UK than whole of the European Union (EU) put together.

It took its time coming, but in the end Bharat (more on that later) trumped the so-called political experts from New Delhi’s gin-n-tonic cocktail circuit. And how!

The recently concluded round of elections to five Assembly assemblies returned a verdict that can only be described as a thumping endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership of the country.

The final tally reads BJP: 4 states; Congress: 1 state. We will now have BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and BJP-led coalitions in Goa and Manipur. The Congress won Punjab thanks to the personal charisma of Captain Amarinder Singh, the former Maharaja of Patiala and the party’s chief ministerial candidate, as well as the two-term anti-incumbency of the government in which the BJP was the junior partner.

India’s Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley, just completed a packed tour of the UK during which Prime Minister Theresa May dropped in to a Downing Street meeting with his British counterpart, Chancellor Philip Hammond. ‘India Investment Journal’ caught up with the senior Indian Cabinet minister in London to explore his message for foreign investors, a possible free trade agreement (FTA) with post-Brexit Britain and the next phase of his dramatic reform agenda for the Indian economy.

Is post-Brexit UK a more, or less, attractive trading partner?

There is a considerable amount of interest in India, particularly after Brexit. Correspondingly my discussions in the past have also indicated that both investors and the government here [Britain] are looking for expanding opportunities of trade with India.

It is dubbed Asia’s largest air show and the 2017 edition of Aero India in Bengaluru recently proved the ideal showcase for the Indian government’s plans to transform India into a global manufacturing hub.

The highlight of this year’s Aero India was a dual role combat-capable Advanced Hawk jet trainer, developed jointly by the UK’s BAE Systems and India’s public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) being formally unveiled.

The rising popularity of Tata Motors owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) models led to a 15.8 per cent hike in car exports from the UK to India in 2016, the recent UK automotive industry figures released in London revealed.

India is now the eighth largest Asian market for UK car exports with JLR’s Land Rover Discovery Sport, Ranger Rover Evoque, Jaguar XF, Jaguar XE and Jaguar F-Pace among the top five most popular models with a growing number of “affluent buyers” in the country. The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), one of the UK’s largest trade associations, said the Indian demand formed part of a wider 17-year high for British car manufacturing last year.