London Mayor Khan to visit India, Pakistan


Trip is part of the Mayor’s ‘London is Open’ campaign

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan and Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agarwal are to visit India and Pakistan later this year, in the first official trip by a senior British politician to both countries, as city authorities seek to reassure businesses and others across the world of the resilience and strengths of the city post-Brexit.

“My affinity to India and Pakistan is London’s affinity to India and Pakistan,” said Mr. Khan whose grandparents migrated from India to Pakistan and parents moved to London. He is set to visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar and then to Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.


Beacon of hope

“I will try my best to demonstrate those in India and Pakistan that here in London we are a beacon — the message we try to take wherever we go in the world is that London is a beacon for tolerance, respect and diversity,” he said.

That he would be joined by Mr. Agarwal shows to both countries the possibility of fostering “good relations”, he added.

The Mayor will visit a Gurudwara, a masjid and a temple during the trip.

The six-day visit due to take place at a yet-to-be-confirmed date later this year is part of the Labour Mayor’s ‘London is Open’ campaign. European cities and financial centres have launched aggressive bids for international business amid the insecurity thrown up by Brexit. Mr. Khan said London, while not complacent, remained confident that it would retain its current status.

“A key message we are taking is that London is open to talent, is open to business, is open to people,” he said. “One of the things we will be saying is the underlying reason why you love London haven’t changed... since the Brexit [referendum] we’ve seen no evidence of a lack of investment from India or Pakistan... my job is to reassure them that London is going to be even better.”


Immigration bottlenecks

He also highlighted concerns about the impact of U.K. government immigration policy on international students. “The government is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he said, highlighting the role that access to international students played in attracting businesses to London.

He said that while the U.K. government couldn’t do trade deals with non-EU countries while still in the EU, it could take steps to ease relations with them.

“My point to the government is that if you are negotiating with the EU why are you delaying improving relations with the rest of the world? The best way to do that is through visas…there is nothing stopping the government from making changes to the immigration rules. When you get people, talent it brings trade and investment. We’ve had so many people who’ve come here as small business owners and built up businesses -that is the opportunity that London offers.”

Mr. Khan is to meet senior politicians in both countries as well as business leaders, city chiefs, artists, entrepreneurs, Bollywood celebrities, and others. The Mayor will also be accompanied by a delegation of businesses that are part of his International Business Programme, focussed on helping city businesses attract international business and investment.

The visit, he said, was intended to demonstrate how Britain was equal partners with both countries, with Britain able to offer India and Pakistan as much as the other way around.

“There has been criticism in the past of [British politicians] going in an arrogant way — fairly or unfairly. We are equal partners and excited about India and Pakistan and the opportunities they bring to London.

He said he recognised concerns in India and Pakistan around the role that London played in money laundering by prominent figure, and was pushing the U.K. government to tighten up rules, including regarding offshore companies buying property in the country. “We will do the best we can to deal with the issue.”



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