Prime Minister Modi
Thank you, on behalf of everyone assembled and particularly on behalf of the House of Lords, for your speech. Your presence here today gives Parliament a valuable opportunity to celebrate the unique relationship between the UK and India.
And how appropriate to do so here in the Royal Gallery, where 85 years ago today, King George V opened the first London Round Table Conference. In this Gallery in 1930, he welcomed Indian and British leaders, who had come together to discuss constitutional reform in India—as a means of moving towards self-rule. And though the achievements of the Round Table Conferences were modest, they did signal, in the words of Ramsay MacDonald, the 'birth of a new history'.
By bringing together British and Indian statesmen and rulers of Indian states, and seating them at a round table thereby conferring equal status among all, the conferences took us a step forward towards the relationship we enjoy today—as equal partners, and friends, with not just a shared history, a shared language and a shared culture, but also a shared respect.
Eighty-five years on, and your country has developed into one of the most influential and important nations in the world, its progress founded upon values which, again, the UK shares.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting New Delhi, Kolkata and Assam. I was deeply impressed with the number and scope of local enterprises I saw—from rugby clubs for street children to initiatives for re-skilling women, from multicultural classes in primary schools to highly successful microfinance schemes. I was impressed too, by the number of women engaged in politics at all levels. While I cannot pretend to have a comprehensive view of your vast and complex democracy, I believe that this is what lies at the heart of India’s modern urgency and vitality—an entrepreneurial energy and a spirit of inclusivity which the UK also holds dear.
Prime Minister Modi, it has been a pleasure to host you here in Parliament today. I hope we have been able to provide a taste of the warmth of the welcome you will undoubtedly receive at Wembley tomorrow.
Image: House of Lords 2015 / Photography by Roger Harris