London Mayor Sadiq Khan to visit India, Pakistan this year

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 08, 2018

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London   -  REUTERS

Seeks to reassure businesses and others across the world of the UK capital’s resilience and strengths post-Brexit

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan and Deputy Mayor (Business) Rajesh Agarwal are to visit India and Pakistan later this year, in the first official trip by a senior British politician to both countries, as the City’s authorities seek to reassure businesses and others across the world of the resilience and strengths of London post-Brexit.

“My affinity to India and Pakistan is London’s affinity to India and Pakistan,” said Khan whose grandparents migrated from India to Pakistan and whose parents then moved to London. He is set to visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar and then Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.

“The message we try to take wherever we go in the world is that London is a beacon for tolerance, respect and diversity,” he said, adding that the fact that he will be joined by Agarwal showed to both countries the possibility of fostering “good relations”. The mayor will visit a gurudwara, a mosque and a temple during the trip.

‘Londin is Open’

The six-day visit, due to take place at a yet-to-be-confirmed date later this year, is part of the Labour Party mayor’s ‘London is Open’ campaign. European cities and financial centres have launched aggressive bids for international business amid the insecurity thrown up by Brexit.

Khan said London, while not complacent, remained confident that it will retain its current status. “A key message we are taking is that London is open to talent, is open to business, is open to people.

“One of the things we will be saying is, the underlying reason why you love London haven’t changed. Since the Brexit [referendum], we’ve seen no evidence of a lack of investment from India or Pakistan. My job is to reassure them that London is going to be even better.”

Immigration rules

He also highlighted concerns about the impact of UK government’s immigration policy on international students. “The government is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he said, highlighting the role that access to international students play in attracting businesses to London.

He said that while the UK government couldn’t do trade deals with non-EU countries while still in the EU, it could take steps to ease relations with them. “My point to the government is that if you are negotiating with the EU, why are you delaying improving relations with the rest of the world? The best way to do that is through visas…there is nothing stopping the government from making changes to the immigration rules. When you get people, talent, it brings trade and investment. We’ve had so many people who’ve come here as small business owners and built up businesses — that is the opportunity that London offers.”

Khan is to meet senior politicians in both countries as well as business leaders, city chiefs, artists, entrepreneurs, Bollywood celebrities and others. The mayor will also be accompanied by a delegation of businesses that are part of his International Business Programme, focussed on helping London businesses attract international business and investment.

The visit, he said, is intended to demonstrate how Britain was equal partners with both countries, with Britain able to offer India and Pakistan as much as the other way around. “There has been criticism in the past of [British politicians] going in an arrogant way — fairly or unfairly. We are equal partners and excited about India and Pakistan and the opportunities they bring to London.”

He said he recognised concerns in India and Pakistan around the role that London played in money laundering by a prominent figure, and was pushing the UK government to tighten up rules, including those on offshore companies buying property in the country. “We will do the best we can to deal with the issue.”

Published on October 10, 2017

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