This time last week, I was unexpectedly in India for the funeral of my beloved aunt. It allowed a few days to reflect on differences between the UK and India; two countries that have shaped many British born Indians like me.
Brexit continues to promise exciting opportunities beyond the Single Market as we exit the EU. India is a country with a population the size of Europe but what’s it like as a country to engage and trade with? If you’re a flag bearer for Brexit but have never visited India, you may be in for a surprise; India is not Europe.
I’ve enjoyed visiting India for five decades witnessing change. It’s an exhilarating, exciting, white-knuckle ride of a country. I miss the chaos of North India when I fly back to Birmingham Airport. Lane discipline is observed on the M6. The screaming horns of TATA widow making trucks are a distant memory. Not once do I see a roadside cart selling fruit juice or a motorcycle carrying a family of four.
The journey from Amritsar Airport to Jalandhar, where I have family is about the same distance as Birmingham to Telford. The road linking Amritsar to Jalandhar gets better every time I visit but never quite gets finished. Relatives assure me once complete, the journey will be about an hour. The completed stretch is faultless, it’s the frequent slowing down at incomplete flyovers, to go off-road that stretches the journey time.
This is just one example of where our two countries differ. They are at different stages in the development of infrastructure; a key factor in productivity. I wish them every success in their journey, especially now Brexit has tied our economic future to their prosperity.
You will never bare witness to the tapestry of humanity as you do in India. I tapped that line into my computer with fingers scalded gathering my aunt’s ashes 48 hours after her funeral pyre was lit.