The Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) hosted a special dinner in honour of the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP and the Indian High Commissioner HE Mrs Ruchi Ghanashyam on 8th May 2019 at the Taj Hotel, London. The dinner was to celebrate the special bond shared between Britain and India.
Speaking at the event, Mrs Ghanashyam urged UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid to look into regulations around compulsory tax contributions for Indian professionals who come to the UK for a short period of time, as it results in a loss of millions of pounds. Mrs Ghanashyam, referring to the latest figures from Grant Thornton's 'India Meet Britain Tracker 2019', spoke about an increase in the number of Indian companies operating in UK to 842 in 2019, the PTI reported.
She reportedly said, "It shows the confidence that Indian business has in the UK and the positive momentum that they keep on adding to the India-UK economic relations. Here, I want to draw attention to the National Insurance (NI) exemption which for Indian nationals is 52 weeks, while for some other countries it can be three to five years.” NI is a tax paid by UK residents, ensuring access to state-funded pension in later life. However, people on a limited period of Intra Company Transfer (ICT) visa, is unable to take advantage of this, as the minimum period to gain the pension entitlement through NI is 10 years. This effectively means forfeiting the entire amount paid in.
Mrs Ghanashyam added, "An estimate puts this loss of contribution to approximately 230 million pounds for the employer and 200 million pounds for the employee."
She also highlighted the issue of falling number of Indian students in the British universities, and emphasised how the students are a 'great source of strength' for UK-India relationship. Last year though there has been a slight increase in the number of students coming to the UK from India to 19,500, it is still way below the number of 40,890 in 2010-11.
Ms Ghanashyam also reportedly spoke of the strong India-UK partnership, most recently demonstrated in the blacklisting of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar by the UN in which the UK "took the lead", and said she had also sought the permission of the Minister to raise some issues.
Rt Hon Sajid Javid, who was the Chief Guest at the dinner welcomed Mrs Ghanashyam as the second female Indian High Commissioner to the UK (after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit), as well as her "frank" remarks and pledged to work alongside her on some of the issues.
He said, "Last year, the number of Indian students choosing to come to the UK went up by 35 per cent, the biggest annual increase in over a decade. And, the UK already issues more skilled worker visas to Indian nationals than to the rest of the world combined," said Mr Javid, the first Pakistani-origin minister in the UK Cabinet.
The Home Secretary emphasised that India post-Brexit will be a decisive partner in furthering the joint success of UK and India. He added, "The new (post-Brexit) immigration system will be a skills-based system, which means it will not be based on nationality. It means that we will be even more open once we have left the EU (European Union) to welcome even more of India's brightest and best," he said.
He also paid tribute to the history of the relationship and help from India with the largest volunteer force of 1 million soldiers in the Great Wars- a debt which can never be repaid. The Home Secretary said, "That the relationship and friendship had stood the test of time and both countries stand on firm foundations which together will build a shared future."
The Minister referred to British Indian businessman Dr Rami Ranger, the co-chair of CFIN, as a "success story" as he highlighted the contributions of the Indian diaspora to the UK, adding that the country's state-funded National Health Service (NHS) would collapse without the contribution of 60,000 British Indians.
Dr Ranger, the London-based founder of international marketing and distributing company Sun Mark, said, "The UK-India alliance is not only mutually beneficial but also good for the world as a whole because we share similar values as secular democracies.”
The CFIN, which promotes closer ties between Conservative party and India, also unveiled new patrons at the event - Tory MPs Ian Duncan Smith, Paul Scully MP and Nusrat Ghani MP.
Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, shared some highly entertaining snippets of his colourful and vast political experience and his affinity for India. He said, "That we have the most significant opportunity that exists and we must act to re-establish with a great friend, India, the country which shares a common language, common legal system and common belief in democracy, the development of trade and further opportunities to the benefit of both countries and the world."
Nusrat Ghani MP said how delighted she was to join CFI as a Patron and highlighted how important the synergy between both great countries is, highlighting the opportunities that exist between India and UK in relation to Transport and other key infrastructure projects. Ghani introduced her Co-Minister for Transport and Aviation in the House of Lords, Baroness Charlotte Vere of Norbiton.
Paul Scully MP, highlighted how India is currently carrying out the longest exercise in democracy and the opportunity for the UK to enhance and develop closer ties with India. He spoke of the value of the diaspora in Britain and the importance of social mobility for the benefit of the country, including the Indian diaspora's contribution to key public services including the NHS.