London, Jan 6, 2004
While political leaders continue to try and bring decades of unrest
to an end in Northern Ireland, other initiatives are being undertaken
in other areas to try and improve the economic state of the province.
And one of the key ideas involves India. What has happened is that
Northern Ireland is shifting focus where trade and investment is concerned,
and the powers that be have decided to zero in on India as the most
crucial partner in its economic development.
To bring this innovative notion to fruition will obviously take time
and investment - not to mention persuasion and partnership. But the
first steps have already been taken with the setting up of the Opportunity
India Campaign. This is aimed at attracting Indian business investment,
smoothing the way towards research tie - ups and expanding Northern
Ireland's presence in India itself.
According to Barry Gardiner, parliamentary under - secretary of state
at the Northern Ireland office, Northern Ireland may be small, with
a population of some 1.7 million people, but it has a low cost of living,
good connections with the rest of Britain and mainland Europe, and also
low labour costs. He stated that there are already significant business
links between India and Northern Ireland; last year for example Indian
customers bought goods worth around #25 million from the province.
Mr. Gardiner went on to say: "We are also seeing an increasing
number of our information technology companies developing alliances
in India that will increase to compete in global markets, thereby helping
towards the creation of wealth and employment in Northern Ireland".
A further step in forging links between India and Northern Ireland
has been the appointment of NRI businessman Lord Daljit Rana as the
honorary consul for India in Northern Ireland.
As well as business links being created, leading universities such
as the University of Ulster and Queens University have made arrangements
with Indian counterparts to expand research co- operation and set up
both lecturer and student exchange programmes.
The building blocks for a close working relationship are clearly now
in place and Barry Gardiner, who apart from being under secretary of
state for Northern Ireland is also the founder of Labour Friends of
India, has recently led a delegation to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore
to discuss what happens next.
Whatever that is, it seems that the only logical outcome of these initiatives
will be a positive one.