David Cameron Woos India With Visa, Education Sops


MUMBAI – Clearly out to woo Indian businesses and students, British Prime Minister David Cameron on his visit to Mumbai on Monday announced that the UK would introduce same-day visa services for investors and that there would be no cap on the number of Indian students to UK or the duration of their residence there. Accompanied by the largest-ever trade delegation from the UK to any country, the PM also said India should continue to reduce trade barriers to create better opportunities for British companies and spoke of partnering in Indian infrastructure projects like a potential economic corridor between Mumbai and Bangalore.

The British premier said there were great opportunities for Indian companies to invest in Britain. “When I see Indian investment in Britian, I only see hope—investments like Jaguar and Land Rover, which is a massive international success story,” he said. “We welcome that sort of investment.” In a sign of the growing business footprint, British retail company Debenhams will open ten new stores across India by 2017, and UK hairstyling brands Brylcream and TRESemme products will go on sale in India. The Royal Mint and the MMTC-PAMP India have partnered to strike The Royal Mint’s gold Sovereign commemorative coins in India for the first time in nearly a century. The InterContinental Hotel Group also plans to expand in India by building 13 new hotels over the next few years.

The delegation also explored soft power exchanges in health, education, culture and renewable energy. The British Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, chaired a round table on education and employability at St Xavier’s College. On the sidelines of the event, he told mediapersons that they would meet officials of the human resource development ministry in Delhi to discuss the problems associated with recognition of the taught Masters’ programmes in India. “The Indian government education bodies do not recognize the one-year taught Masters’ degree from UK. Though getting a job in the private sector is easier with the degree, the government sector does not recognize it.” Attributing this as one of the factors affecting the flow of Indian students to UK universities, one of the delegates also mentioned that a re-entry into the Indian education system after the one-year taught Masters programme was difficult with lack of recognition.

Cameron also sought information on various infrastructural initiatives in Mumbai, including the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, the Navi Mumbai airport and the Nhava-Sewri Link. Transport for London (TfL), which runs an extensive metro network in London, inked a crucial memorandum of understanding with MMRDA for the development of metro systems, exchange of expertise and information. The MOU was signed in the presence of Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who said the new partnership would help MMRDA implement and operationalize its plans for setting up a 150-km Metro rail network for Mumbai and another 300-km network in the Mumbai metropolitan region.