Britain's Employment Minister and Champion of Indian Diaspora, Ms Priti Patel's 3 day visit was met with warm responses in India, as she covered 3 cities including Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi from 7 to 9 January. Speaking at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi alongside the Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, she commended the vibrant contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.
"Two years ago, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed me as his Diaspora Champion for the Indian community in the United Kingdom.
"This role was the first of its type – unique in the UK and anywhere in the world. It is evidence of the personal commitment that our Prime Minister places on the relationship between Indian and the UK, and, importantly, our people-to people links…
“As the Indian diaspora champion, my personal ambition is to continue to increase engagement and dialogue with the Indian community in the UK. I want to develop even closer the long-standing relationship between our nations.
She said that since 2006, the UK has had 25,000 exchanges of academics, staff and students under the UK India Education and Research Initiative.
"We are also collaborating on developing smarter, greener cities.
"Yesterday, I was delighted to attend the launch of the roadmap for a low carbon and climate resilient Kolkata with the Mayor of Kolkata, Mr Sovan Chatterjee. British and Indian experts have worked together on this unique programme that will create one million green jobs, attract investment and cut carbon emissions in this city.
"This is another example of where the two of us can work together to make a real difference.
"Of course, the economy is also a priority for both our countries. During Modi’s visit, we announced more that £9billion in commercial deals and bilateral investment, which will also underpin our growing relationship.
"And Prime Minister Modi announced the Government of India’s intention to launch the first Government backed rupee bond in London to fund railway infrastructure development.
"So these are just a few examples of where we are working together, government to government."
Global Summit and Meeting 'Didi'
Priti attended the West Bengal Global Summit from 7 January till 8th, following Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's visit to the UK in summer 2015, where no fewer than 25 MoUs were signed. Many British businesses are also newly entering the Bengal market as well as companies strengthening their existing presence in the state. Some UK businesses have also set up their headquarters in Kolkata - such as Hargreaves, a major mining company - and others rapidly expanding their base - like UK facilities management company OCS which now employs more than 900 people in West Bengal.
“During 34 years of communist rule West Bengal’s tremendous potential –a wealth of natural resources; a creative and highly educated workforce; a hugely strategic geographic location –remained unfulfilled. Although the connections between the UK and West Bengal were historic, they offered little for our shared future.
The Honourable Chief Minister’s tenure has offered us an important opportunity to change that, just as she has set about to change West Bengal itself,” Patel told Asian Voice.
British Deputy High Commission inauguration in Ahmedabad
Minister Priti visited Ahmedabad on January 7, for a few hours in which she inaugurated the British Deputy High Commissioner's office and, met with Governor O.P. Kohli. The Ahmedabad High Commission, is the fourth Indian mission, after Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Also present at the inauguration was Kheda BJP member Devusinh Chauhan.
“Coming to Gujarat to inaugurate the High Commission was important to me. The opening of a High Commission in this region is a significant step towards connecting Gujarat and Britain. This is major news for every one of us. The British government was keen on establishing this organisation. This mission will not only boost the cultural and historical ties, but also help promote mutual cooperation,” she said.
In an exclusive interview with Asian Voice, she said, “Indian families have struggled to find a place in the British society. True, the community has mixed with British traditions. Culture and tradition hold an importance place here. However, it needs to participate more. You will find Punjabis, Gujaratis and people from different Indian societies in councils across Britain, which is admirable and welcome. There still is a lack of public participation and that needs to be encouraged. I am one of the best examples of how far Indians can come. I had an interest in politics and the public, which is why, I started initiating myself from a very young age. We can all see where the engagement and the hard work got me. The Indian community accounts of 1.5 million people in the country. I am proud that I represent them in the office.
Stating on how committed David Cameron is on strengthening ties between India and Britain, she said, “The fact that Prime Minister David Cameron in his tenure has already visited India three times, is proof itself of how eager he is to establish relations with the country. Keeping the Indian youth in mind, British government has put special stress on skill development.” Patel strongly rubbished stories on how tough regulations make it difficult for Indian students to attain a visa. She said, “There are several colleges in the UK that exploit students from countries like India. To find a solution to this issue, we have framed a set of policies that would help students choose a proper path, the right visa and, acquire quality education.
“There are no set restrictions and limits on the number of students who wish to study in British universities...”