India and the UK are "not as close as they could be" new research has revealed. The study indicated that the UK is losing out on vital opportunities as ignorance of India among young Britons threatens the relationship between the two countries.
The report, titled India Matters, revealed that 74% of young Indians knew "a great deal" or a "fair amount" about the UK, contrasting greatly with just 21% of young people from the UK who said the same about India. Many Indians believe that the UK's "colonial mindset" contributes towards the fact that India is not treated as an equal, with nearly 30% of Indians saying that people in the UK are "ignorant of other cultures" and 24% saying Britons are "intolerant" towards foreigners.
"In some contexts, the colonial legacy presents a barrier for the UK in forging relationships with India today and in the future," the report read. "Indeed, there is a growing sense of frustration in India as some feel that a colonial mindset still lingers with some people in the UK, as at times it appears that India is still not perceived or treated as an equal to the UK."
The research was commissioned by the British Council from Ipsos MORI and aimed to explore young Indians' and Britons' perceptions of each other. It included 1,000 young people from each country and focused on those aged between 18 and 34 with a minimum of secondary school level education. Those from urban areas and who had an active online presence were also preferred for the study.
Despite Indians making up the largest ethnic minority group in the UK, relations between the two countries appear to be deteriorating in a number of different sectors. The research revealed that the number of Indian students choosing to study in the UK has dropped rapidly during the last five years, with far more choosing the US instead. Australia is also quickly catching up with the UK as an education destination for Indian students.
The report recommended that the UK should address the "significant lack of knowledge and understanding" of India among the British public to "ensure that it doesn't lose out to other countries". India now hosts crucial ties with countries such as Germany, the US and Australia, pushing the UK further down the list. The research urged the UK to present a "focused offer" and "act with energy" to develop its relationship with India.
"It's vital that our next generation recognises modern, digital, urban India and looks for the opportunities to collaborate, otherwise we won't just miss out, but risk getting left behind," said Rob Lynes, British Council's director in India. Lynes' comments speak directly to the fact that only 9% of young people in the UK have visited India, with only 4% having participated in a programme to increase their knowledge on India.
The research was released a few weeks ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UK. Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to visit the UK in nearly a decade and is due to address a stronghold of 60,000 Indian members of the diaspora on 12 November at Wembley Stadium.