By Sadiq Khan
There is a strong, enduring bond of friendship and collaboration that exists between Britain and India – between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest. I want this special relationship to grow even stronger.
Understandably, both Brexit and the British government’s misguided approach to visas have caused concern in countries around the world, including India. But, as the Mayor of London, my message is simple. Not only is London still open and welcoming to people from India to come to work, study and visit, but there are many new and exciting opportunities to strengthen the bonds between my city and the great cities of India.
Over many decades, the Indian diaspora has played a vital role in helping to shape London’s diverse society and economy – and, as a result of this, London is fortunate to have been able to develop deep-rooted cultural and business links with some of India’s biggest cities.
These historic ties provide a strong foundation for even greater collaboration. In recent years, too often the debate around the relationship between the UK and India has been solely based on boosting trade. Of course this is vital, but there are so many other areas where we can work together to speed up innovation and to tackle some of the shared challenges we face.
As more and more people are drawn towards living in big cities like London, New Delhi and Mumbai, new challenges have emerged. Fast-growing populations have driven increased demand for public services and transport capacity, while increasing economic activity and congested roads have led to dangerous levels of air pollution. To solve these major health and economic challenges, which are becoming ever more common to major cities around the world, it is important that politicians, policy makers and business leaders create deeper city-to-city partnerships.
Last year, in addition to being elected Mayor of London, I was elected Vice Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Change Leadership Group, a network of some of the world’s largest cities, which come together to tackle issues around pollution and climate change. And it is great to see that Indian cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Jaipur have also joined this initiative.
In London, I am introducing some of the boldest plans anywhere in the world to tackle air pollution and I want to share this experience as well as learn more about what other cities are doing.
Another area where we can learn from each other is through promoting and using the newer, fast-growing sectors of our economies to benefit everyone. India, for example, is home to thriving sectors in tech and science. And, as Europe’s largest technology hub, London shares many of these strengths. My ambition now is to make London one of the world’s leading smart cities – placing digital technology at the heart of making our capital a better place to live.
As part of my plan I have recently appointed London’s first ever Chief Digital Officer, who is tasked with ensuring that we make the most of technology and data science to transform the way public services are delivered in London - making them more accessible, efficient and better-suited to the needs of Londoners. I know India shares a similar ambition around smart cities, and I have been impressed by Prime Minister Modi’s Smart Cities Mission initiative.
Of course, the success of any smart city will always depend on having the people with the right digital and tech skills to deliver. Prime Minister Modi’s Skill India programme is helping to train many people for the digital jobs of the future – something which I am also doing in London. And I am determined to ensure that London remains open, welcoming and an attractive destination for talented Indians who want come to work, study and do business.
I believe that through greater city-to-city collaboration and a new focus on smart city initiatives, we can not only take big steps forward in creating greener and more sustainable cities, but also transform the way we design public services and deliver infrastructure to improve everybody’s quality of life. This is a huge opportunity – and one we must grasp. By building on the extensive ties that already exist, I know we can work together to help ensure London and the great cities of India continue to flourish in the decades ahead.
Hindustan Times, September 20, 2017