| Tony Blair with Vama chef Andy Varma at the Labour Friends of India curry lunch in London
London, March 5: Tony Blair called modern India 'an immensely exciting place' and indicated that the country will be invited to attend the meeting of the G8 advanced nations in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July.
In a speech in London, the British Prime Minister said he was looking forward to the European Union-India summit due to be held in India later this year because 'that will be an important part of the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union'.
'But I also hope for the G8 at Gleneagles later this year, we find a way of bringing India into the dialogue and issues such as climate change in Africa, which is going to be the focal point of the meeting,' Blair said.
In a sweeping and long speech covering all aspects of India's deepening political and economic relationship with Britain, Blair also spoke of the positive contribution of the million strong Indian community in the UK.
This will do him no harm when it comes to attracting the vital support of Indian origin voters in the forthcoming general election. His speech, made to Labour Friends of India, was attended by 300 people, among them cabinet ministers and leading members of the business community from Britain and India.
The sponsors of the meeting included Ficci and British Airways.
Blair also appreciated the food, supplied by Vama, a well- known Indian restaurant in King's Road, Chelsea. He managed to tuck into Adhraki Ghost (ginger and tomato lamb), Chicken do Pyaza, Daal, Bhindi Bhojpuri, Kalonji, flavoured Naan Bread and Raita.
Going back over history, he said: 'I am immensely proud that it was under a Labour government that India secured her independence.'
He recalled his visit to Bangalore, where he met women working in the bio-technology industry and returned with the knowledge that 'they are starting to develop a whole infrastructure of university provision that we in this country, if we want to keep up with them in the future, are going to have to emulate'.
Britain would have to learn from India, he went on: 'It was like a revelation to me. And I remember going back and speaking to some of my cabinet colleagues and saying: 'Look, the future has got to be in developing this type of work-force here and making sure we stay ahead of the game.'
The Prime Minister showed he is in touch with contemporary culture. 'India's culture, too, has impacted worldwide. Bollywood films, seen all over the world, in arts and music and literature, they're recognised frankly here now almost as much as in India.'
He underlined the crucial nature of his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in September last year at 10, Downing Street.
'It was an important meeting where we re-affirmed our commitment to the new strategic partnership between our two countries. This builds not just on close links in many traditional vital areas, but in education and training, science and technology, defence, tackling terrorism, environmental protection and development, in all of these areas we are now marching forward hand-in-hand.'
He said he did not forget that 'there are still many millions of people in India who live below the international poverty line. Our funding is allocated according to a strategy agreed with the government of India and includes spending on health and education and on improving and getting access to services for those who need them most.'
He paid tribute to 'more than one million people of Indian origin who now live in Britain and I know because I've seen it in different parts of the country that I've visited, the contribution those people have made not just within their own communities, but to the dynamism and innovation of our economy is incalculable.'
He added: 'School results for Indian children are above the national average and keep improving. Young people of Indian origin are making an interesting, important impact on the workplace, we're seeing it in a greater representation in the professions, in the growing number of successful Indian businessmen and women and entrepreneurs.'
He said that the Labour Party had 12 MPs from the ethnic minorities in the House of Commons.