London, Oct.28 (ANI): Emphasizing that ties between India and the UK are built upon shared values and traditions, visiting Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil said on Tuesday night that the real strength of any relationship lies in the people-to-people contacts.
"The fact that almost a million people from our two countries travel annually for tourism and business purposes, and that there are over hundred flights a week linking various cities of India and the UK, forms a strong foundation to build on these contacts," said Patil at a State Banquet held in her honour.
She further went on to say that the UK is host to more than one and a half million citizens of Indian origin, representing two percent of the population who contribute between four to five percent of the country's GDP.
"They are also participating in the social and political life of the UK. The Diaspora serves as a strong asset in the development of our relationship," Patil said.
Describing London as a big, old but dynamic city, she said: " It represents a microcosm of the world with people of different religions and races living together. It seems to be everyone's city - much like Delhi, the capital of India. The conclusion of a friendship arrangement between our two capital cities was, thus, natural."
Reflecting on the numerous commonalities between the two countries, Patil said: "We are vibrant democracies with a free press and active civil societies. We both believe in freedom, dignity and respect for the individual. Our countries are forward-looking, adapting to the challenges and trying to shape the outcome of the 21st Century. It is these shared experiences and objectives that have helped us to understand each other's vision and concerns leading to broad-based cooperation."
The decision to upgrade the relationship to a 'Strategic Partnership' in 2004, she said symbolizes mutual trust and confidence in each other. It also signifies a desire to work together, she added.
"India and the UK are natural partners with an impressive array of complementarities. It is not surprising, therefore, that our two countries are now engaged in further strengthening our partnership in different areas including trade and investment, science and technology, education, counter-terrorism, culture, management of the global economy and issues relating to climate change," she said.
She also said that the business communities of the two countries have confidence in doing business with each other. Bilateral trade is growing and, currently stands at 12 billion pounds, she added.
"While the UK is one of India's most important trade and investment partners, India has become one of the largest investors in the UK. These links are set to grow further. Cooperation in the Information and Technology sector is another high point of our relationship. Other sectors tell the same story. Education linkages are expanding rapidly. There are more than 30,000 of our students in the UK. There is a realization that both India and the UK stand to gain through cooperation in the education sector," Patil said.
She said India was proud to be a part of the Commonwealth, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and reiterated that the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in October 2010 would accord a warm welcome to the British delegation led by the Queen. (ANI)