‘Everywhere I went in India, I saw tremendous growth. It didn’t feel like a 5 per cent growth’

Idea Exchange

In this Idea Exchange moderated by Deputy Editor Pranab Dhal Samanta, British High Commissioner to India Sir James Bevan speaks about the optimism he sees in India, the Vodafone case and the London Olympics

Sir James Bevan: I am an India optimist. I am a big believer in India's future. The reason for that is that I spent two-and-a-half months travelling around this beautiful country before I took up my office as high commissioner. Everywhere I went, I saw tremendous growth. It doesn't feel like 5 per cent growth out there in the real India; it feels bigger than that. It is my job as the new High Commissioner to strengthen the relationship between India and the UK.

Pranab Dhal Samanta: You say you found a great deal of optimism in India. What are your impressions—is there a gap between the way the government conveys a certain image or the way it functions and what you see on the ground?

Sir James Bevan: I have served in a lot of countries around the world. The city that Delhi most reminds me of is Washington DC. Washington DC is a place that runs America and Delhi, in many respects, runs India. Washington DC is a one-industry town—it does politics and it does politics extremely well. In Delhi, too, politics is what this town does. As they say in Washington, there is a difference between the way it feels when you are inside the Beltway from the way it feels outside the Beltway—like in the real America or the real India. I am not surprised about the difference. I have seen it elsewhere. The lesson for me is that India is not Delhi and Delhi is not India. Many of the major things that are going to affect India over the next 10-20 years are being decided outside Delhi, just as important decisions are being made in Delhi. It is important for me to see all of that.

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