As the first Indian woman to be elected to the Scottish Parliament, one of my key goals as a politician has been to further strengthen the links between Scotland and India – whether this be economically, socially or culturally.
Therefore, shortly after I was first elected in 2021, I launched the first ever Cross-Party Group (CPG) on India in the Scottish Parliament. Since then, as the groups’ Convener I have chaired numerous meetings which have focused on our three main areas of focus: education, trade, and culture.
But I was clear that, in order to truly forge greater links between these two great countries, our cross-party group would need to visit India in-person.
This is why I am delighted to have recently returned from the first-ever cross-party delegation of MSPs to India, which focused on the area of finance and FinTech.
This delegation, made up of MSPs from the Scottish Conservatives, SNP and Labour, aimed to engage with the FinTech sector in India and identify opportunities for better collaboration with Scotland in this rapidly expanding sector.
If the CPG had made one thing clear over the last year, it was that India is a country with many bold, ambitious initiatives in the area of finance and FinTech.
This is a sector in which Scotland is also making truly great lengths, so there are many opportunities to work together with India in this area.
Ahead of the delegation, we therefore outlined the following objectives:
1. Connect with FinTech organisations in India, to highlight the possibilities for collaboration between the rapidly expanding FinTech industries of Scotland and India.
2. Facilitate the creation of a strategy for how the Scottish and Indian FinTech industries can work together more effectively in the future.
3. Propose that a Memorandum of Understanding be signed in the future between FinTech Scotland and FinTech organisations in India, which builds upon the existing UK-India Joint Working Group.
During our visit, we engaged with some of the leading organisations in the Indian FinTech sector, including the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), Invest India, and TATA Group.
Each of these meetings showed the immense depth of innovation that is taking place across India in this sector, and how this ambitious approach to new technology is already improving the lives of people across India – especially those living in poor communities.
During these sessions, we heard in detail about the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City), which acts as a world class hub of financial services. We also heard from a number of innovative start-up companies who are developing brand new digital technology.
Our cross-party delegation also met with leading Indian politicians including the Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Hardeep Singh Puri, Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khatter, and Minister of Commerce and Industry, Shri Piyush Goyal – all of whom were very encouraging about the prospect of working together more closely with Scotland.
While in Delhi, we had the opportunity to try out the Delhi Metro, which is such a complete and comprehensive network that it’s hardly to believe it was only build 20 years ago. The metro service offers an efficient, affordable service, and includes positive initiatives such as women-only carriages on every train.
We were also hosted by the Prabha Khaitan Foundation, who spoke about some of the important work they’re doing to empower young women in India, and about some of the great connections they already have in India.
Another interesting visit held during the delegation was to the party headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party, where we heard about their journey from being a small political party in 1943, to the current party of government in India with the largest membership of any party in the world – over 180 million.
Overall, this was a hugely productive delegation – one which showcased the world-class innovation that is happening across India. We have uncovered so many opportunities for Scotland to synergise and work more effectively with India.
But it has shown that Scotland is currently barely scratching the surface of what can be achieved by working closely with India. So while we may have met our first objective by engaging closely with the FinTech sector in India, the focus must now shift to the next two.
The delegation itself may be over, but the real work begins now.
This morning, I held the CPG on India’s annual AGM, where we were able to discuss in detail how we will follow-up on this delegation. Along with my cross-party colleagues, I cannot wait to get started on this work as this Cross Party Group on India continues to go from strength to strength.