CELEBRATIONS of India's independence this year are taking place throughout the year due to the fact that India has now reached the grand old age of 60 years.

Many celebrations focussed around August 15 when in 1947, at midnight, Prime Minister Nehru, along with an expectant nation, welcomed the birth of the modern state of India.

As a UK Member of Parliament of Indian origin I have and will yet attend many celebratory functions and have reflected on this significant milestone. Various TV documentaries, newly published books and newspaper features have all done the same. So what can be said of India's progress during the last 60 years and what of its relations with Britain and what does this mean for the local communities in Ealing and Southall?

Firstly, the roots of democracy planted by the departing British and the Indian founding fathers have been watered and India is today the world's largest democracy. Yes, there are pockets of corruption but, taken as a whole, it is a peaceful, stable democratic state that, given its size and diversity, is an inspiration to the rest of the world. Democracy is fundamental to India's success and reminds us all of the importance of ensuring that citizens engage with the democratic process and that politicians like myself must constantly listen to what the people are saying and strive to represent them.

The second point to note is the remarkable economic progress India has made since economic reforms in the latter part of the 20th Century opened up the business market place and drove forward the international phenomenon of globalisation. India is now a major world economic power, produces tens of thousands of graduates and is a major investor in the UK economy.

Southall and West London are key gateways to this investment and as the local economy takes advantage of these opportunities and looks also to send trade and investment to India, local prosperity and jobs will flourish. As the local MP I will be working hard to foster these positive economic relations with India and in November will travel to India with London Mayor Ken Livingstone to open a London business centre.

Finally India's cultural richness and diversity has strengthened over the 60 years and is now enjoyed all over the world. The recent London Mela in Gunnersbury Park organised by the London Mayor and Ealing Council was a wonderful opportunity for all the local communities to come together and celebrate Indian and other Asian cultures. It symbolised the positive relations between Britain and India and pointed the way forward for a peaceful, prosperous and united future.

Virendra Sharma is the Labour MP for Ealing Southall.