On a scale of 1-10, the relationship would score 6 out of 10. Although India and the UK have a shared history of 200 years, neither country has invested actively in building a contemporary relationship. India does not know contemporary Britain and Britain has little idea of how the new India is emerging. Stereotypes exist and remain damaging. There is a need for greater awareness of cultural differences, in the interests of tolerance and openness. The new relationship has to be based on an equal platform of partnership but the challenge is not insurmountable.
Trust is a key word when it comes to understanding cultural relationships. People trust people and institutions, not so much governments. Bureaucratic red tape in India is a problem across all sectors. UK immigration rules are also an obstacle, particularly in the arts, education and business. There is a decline of 24% in student numbers from India to the UK, down to 30,000 in 2012 from 40,000 in the previous year. In comparison, the number of UK students coming to India to study has been a negligible number. Young people in both countries are looking in other directions.
Power no longer rests in the Centre and the Indian States are rising. Britain has not engaged with the emerging cities in India in the sectors of education, the Arts and English language teaching. Similarly, a relationship with London isn’t enough. India has the world’s largest education system. As of September 2012, India had 936 million mobile subscribers. Its ambition is to skill 500 million by 2022. Britain is a leader in educational innovation and digital resources but has not captured the Indian moment. The internet and social media have the potential to transform the prevailing model of education.
There is a need for further research. By far the greatest amount of research reviewed came under education, but it is also here that the need for further research is clearest, largely because of the sheer scale of the education system in India, and the fact that international involvement is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Mechanisms to enable collaboration remain unclear. Individuals and organisations find dealing with the nuts and bolts of getting a solid collaboration off the ground difficult. The commonly reported challenge is a lack of knowledge about, or failure of, mechanisms designed to enable closer collaboration. There is a particular problem with the lack of commensurability in higher education, especially in terms of accreditation. A lack of mutual understanding of how things are done in each country is also an issue in the arts. There is untapped potential for greater private sector partnership across sectors.
We have failed to build on our shared heritage, perhaps shying away from the potential of the Diaspora to create firm cultural connections. There has been no substantial engagement with the huge India Diaspora to develop bilateral trade or to enhance collaborative working, especially in the Arts. The ‘softer sciences’ and the arts need special attention: they are essential to understanding and strengthening the cultural relationship, but they are also frequently perceived to be under-funded and marginalised.