This year sees India celebrate 70 years of independence from the UK. Both the UK and Indian governments are using the anniversary to celebrate the strong cultural ties that exist between the two countries, so readers of our blog will have lots of opportunities to join in the celebrations.
With Brexit and Trump dominating the news headlines, this has focused the media’s attention on the UK’s relationship with Europe and the US. And so our relationship with India has taken a back seat. Which is a shame because it’s of enormous importance to both countries – as well as being a source of great pride.
Last year saw a record breaking 400,000 visits to the UK from India. In the first half of 2015 alone Indian tourists spent £199 million during their stays. And with Rough Guides naming India as their top country to visit in 2017, we can expect to see thousands of Brits flying in the opposite direction.
OK. So the Indian government’s decision to withdraw the 500 and 1,000 rupee bank note from circulation last month caught lots of tourists unaware (in fact, it rendered 86 percent of the currency void which is an interesting decision for any government to take), but India’s new e-visa system has greatly simplified getting into the country. In fact, according to the ministry of tourism, the inflow of foreign tourists arriving into the country through e-visas in December was up 56.6% on last year.
And let’s not forget that British Indians represent the largest ethnic group in Britain (totalling 1.5 million people) and 3 of the top 6 languages spoken here are Indian: Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati.
So what steps are the two countries taking to celebrate this notable milestone? We think HM Government has taken a fairly highbrow approach to the celebrations as it’s arranged for two of the most iconic British texts to tour India as part of the programme.
The British Library will showcase Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays – and the 1225 edition of the Magna Carta.
Meanwhile, the British Library will also be digitising 200,000 pages of its South Asian archives; so over two centuries of Indian print, dating from 1714 to 1914, will be accessible to anyone around the globe.
Although these represent significant achievements, we suspect most ordinary Indians will be more excited by the decision taken by Madame Tussauds which has announced that its first Indian venture will open in New Delhi in 2017; its Bollywood waxwork figures are already some of the most popular in London.
In fact, parent group Merlin is set to invest £50 million in India over 10 years, rolling out other UK favourites – such as Sea Life aquariums and Legoland Discovery Centres – across Indian cities.
Indians living in the UK will have a chance to celebrate too. An India exhibition is being planned at the Manchester Museum before the opening of their India gallery and a ‘dynamic festival of arts and culture led by India’s cultural organisations in the UK’ has been planned as part of a year long ‘Festival of India in the UK’ .
Whether you’re attending a highbrow event or a more popular one, we hope you have a great time and will do your bit to celebrate this wonderful milestone.