Next years’ ‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit’ is scheduled to be held from 18-20 January, 2019. The United Kingdom (UK) has not just refused to be a partner country but has also decided to withdraw themselves from the event, calling it a “show-piece, state-led event.”
This decision comes as a result of unsatisfactory ‘commercial outcomes’ as described by them. Senior diplomats from the United Kingdom pointed out that after spending 50,000 pounds each in bringing ministerial and business delegations to the summit, the quantum of business deals struck at the event were few. A senior diplomat from the UK, not willing to be identified, said:
“We partnered in 2015 and 2017 and the money and resources we put into did not fetch the commercial outcomes the way we wanted. We have now decided to use that money in better ways… With 25,000 pounds a year, we can do a lot more than going out and talking to people, having dinners and running events. Out of that, we ended up with just two or three concrete business deals.”
“Because we are not a partner country, we will not be bringing any ministerial delegation or business delegation. We have also not taken up space in the Vibrant Gujarat exhibition,” the official said, adding that the UK was able to crack only two business deals during the 2015 summit and one deal in 2017 edition of the event.
The decision to not be a “partner country” in the 2019 edition of Vibrant summit — that will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — was taken by the UK in August 2018 and Chief Secretary of Gujarat J N Singh was informed through a letter in September, said sources.
However, UK is not the first country to pull out of the said event. United States too, has pulled out as a partner country from the summit. The US Consul General Edgard D Kegan during his visit to Vadodara earlier in December 2018 said the United States will not be able to partner for the summit till the unresolved trade issues between the two countries are settled.
The UK diplomat has clarified that their country’s decision had nothing to do with politics and was purely a commercial one. He said:
“Our decision is not based on any politics… Our resources are limited and we are looking at where we can target it to achieve real deliverable outcomes… We have learnt from our experiences in 2015 and 2017.”
Diplomatic ties between the UK and Gujarat that were strained post-2002 communal riots in the state began improving after 100 MPs in the UK’s House of Commons passed a motion to support Vibrant Gujarat summit, a brain child of Narendra Modi, who was the then chief minister of the state.
UK is the fourth FDI contributor after Mauritius, Singapore and Japan. So far, 13 countries have confirmed to being the “partner countries” for the Vibrant summit. This includes Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Japan, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, The Netherlands, UAE and Uzbekistan.
Incidentally, Pakistan delegation is also expected to join the summit in 2019 which exposes the hypocrisy of BJP-led Nationalism in the country.
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