Monday 19th January 2015 London saw an India-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) at London’s Institute of Engineers. The Indian High Commission was a lead and took an organisational role. The proceedings, which kicked off in the afternoon with speakers from the UK Department of Trade and Industry. The UK India Business Council was a partner organisation and its Chair, the Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt was much in evidence.
Mr Richard Heald, CEO UKIBC welcomed delegates from the business and academic worlds across India and the UK. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Dr Vince Cable was there.
Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman, Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry was the Chief Guest.
The CII was the lead on JETCO's Joint Working Group on Technological Collaboration, Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing and organized a delegation.
Gopi Katragadda, Chief Technology Officer , Tata Sons spoke as the India co-chair of the JWG.
He told The Asian Voice exclusively: "The India-UK Jetco meetings today were productive. Along with our UK counterparts we identified specific areas in automotive and aerospace manufacturing for technology collaborations. Skill development was also another area we tackled and identified specific actions.
Both ministers, Smt. Sitharaman and Dr. Cable showed resolve and commitment to strengthen bilateral economic relations and address policy level obstacles specifically in labour mobility issues."
Then came a press interaction with Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman organised by the High Commission of India. Mrs Sitharaman discussed how quickly the new Government of India has moved forward and demonstrated that projects can be rapidly executed. She stated, “Every hurdle which exists will be removed.”
The Hon. Minister explained that the Companies Act had been amended and the rules corrected, stating, “While I was Minister for Corporate Affairs, 40 changes were made in the Companies Act after a stakeholders meeting.” She stated that FDI had increased 25% with the advent of the Modi regime.
Mrs Sitharaman commented that taxation and its structure had been simplified. With 5% rising growth, she also said that while doing business with India was now easier; Delhi was interacting with states and the provinces, which have to provide law and order.
There is, said the minister, a long term investment in the industrial “corridor” linking Bangalore and Mumbai. She added that the UK could share its technology and expertise with India, and that growth was expected in the two way investment; especially with Britain and Europe investing in India.
Later, The Indian High Commission hosted an event called “Strengthening India-UK Business Partnerships” which H. E. The High Commissioner, Mr Mathai, elegantly chaired, after welcoming delegates. The Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt was also on stage. The Hon. Mrs Sitharaman, and the Rt Hon Nick Boles MP, Minister of State for Skills and Equalities spoke. Manoj Ladwa was present as were peers like Baroness Usha Prashar and Businessman Rami Ranger.
Nick Boles said "there is absolutely no limit for Indian students to come and study here. There were a number of bogus universities which we have closed down. If the students get a job with a certain income level, they can start their career here."
He said that the UK had something to learn from India, so The Asian Voice asked him what this was. He answered that generally; those in the UK complain and argue over small things, whereas in India he finds much more of a “can do” attitude which he finds heartening.
Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman said that she did not think "there is a rosy picture for Indian students to come to the UK for higher studies" and that her daughter did not want to come here even though she wants to study English. Even though both Mrs Sitharaman and her husband took degrees in the UK!
"There is a perception...The impression is that it is difficult to get a scholarship and they have to pay three times the fee (than applicable to local students). Most go to the USA," she said.
She also commented that there are many from India who finds it difficult to get visas giving examples saying “chefs, paramedics, and University teachers find it difficult."
Indian's High Commissioner to the UK Ranjan Mathai said "We, as in The Government of India, have as much interest in bogus colleges being closed down because that would help Indian students in not getting duped. But if Indian students are caught in this situation they should be given adequate time to find an alternative and efforts should be made to ensure that they get some compensation for what they have lost."
Interviewing exclusively with the Asian Voice on the UK and India, Mrs Sitharaman said, “it’s a very old relationship, based on a context historical and otherwise, so it is important to sustain it at that level and give it as much importance as it deserves. The relationship has to be strengthened.”