On 20th September, Thursday, a centrist policy think-tank organised a roundtable discussion with the agenda of strengthening UK-India bilateral relations. The seminar organised by 'Global Policy Insights' along with policy advisors from the Department of Education, analysed the fields of education and sports for future collaborative projects between the UK and India's state of Madhya Pradesh.
Held at the Grand Committee Room of Westminster Palace, the discussion encompassed ministers, delegates, bureaucrats and policy advisors from both UK and India. Members included, Jitu Patwari Minister for Higher Education, Sports and Youth Affairs of Madhya Pradesh, Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for business, Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing and Southall among others.
“Those days are gone when only India needed the UK. In today's political and economic climate the UK needs India both in terms of investment and finances,” said Virendra Sharma.
Emphasising on Sharma's argument of the UK-India partnership being that of the “equals”, Rajesh Agrawal spoke about the UK's entrepreneurial spirit. Agrawal who is himself from Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh, spoke about the education hub that the state has become.
Rajesh Agrawal : Hallmark of excellence from Madhya Pradesh
“I believe that sports, culture and education form a crucial role in bringing together people from all faith and religious backgrounds regardless of their age, caste and creed. This was demonstrated by the Cricket World Cup. Some of the greatest cricketers are from Madhya Pradesh including Naman Ojha,” said Agrawal.
But Agrawal also spoke about the growing start-up economy, which is being further harnessed by London and Partners. The avenues of global partnerships were further scrutinised by the Minister of Education, Sports and Youth Welfare of Madhya Pradesh, Jitu Patwari. He praised the Deputy Mayor for being the hallmark of excellence and a true representation of India in the UK. Patwari further highlighted that a sports and skilled based university would be set up in Madhya Pradesh and stressed about women’s higher education. He concluded by inviting UK universities to Madhya Pradesh.
“More than 500 universities are members of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and four of those universities are from Madhya Pradesh. This includes the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication from Bhopal,” said Kudzai Muronzi, Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Visas a bottleneck for professionals
Recently, the Department of Education has been working alongside the government's agenda in materialising plans around exchange programs where about 200 UK students would spend time in India. Anna Sonley, Senior Policy Advisor International Higher Education, Department of Education discussed the role of AI and technology in university collaborations and emphasised on increasing the number of international students in the UK to 200,000 in near future.
However, Manish Singh, IAS, Minister (Economic) Indian High Commission, and Lakshmi Kaul, head of the Confederation of Indian Industry (UK), highlighted the issues around immigration and recognizing universal qualifications for acceptance in both countries.
“Although, we appreciate that the government has re-introduced the post-study work visa for international students, obtaining visas continues to be a bottleneck for professionals and students. Therefore, more work needs to be done on those avenues,” said Kaul.
This argument was further supported by Vishal Gandhi, Staffing Director at Tata Consultancy Services, UK who highlighted that the Tata Group was the biggest private employer in the UK. They recruit 200 graduates on an average every year and emphasised on the collaborations in youth.
Global Policy Insights, is a centrist policy institute and engages in research and analysis of governance, political economy and policies.