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Posted on Dec 06, 10:16PM | IANS
Wooing Indian business and students to his country, British High Commissioner James Bevan Thursday sought to dispel the notion that the country's economy was on a slowdown and assured that visa services would be eased for "genuine Indian visitors, students and business people to the UK".
Bevan, speaking on the topic "The UK and India: Myths, Reality and Prospects" here, sought to bust "five myths" that Indians have about his country.
He said Britons are not "stuffy and old fashioned" and the London Olympics this year "summed up modern Britain". On the second myth, that "Britain is in decline", he said: "We in the UK reject that completely. We think Britain's best days are ahead of us".
Britain's economy "is one of the world's largest. We have the seventh largest economy in the world (India is 11th) with an annual GDP of over USD 2.4 trillion," he said.
He said despite the economic downturn, which has hit Britain, the "British economy is healing. It's a hard road, but we're on the right track".
Britain is one of the most business-friendly environments in the world and his government has cut red tape, said Bevan. He said in the last five years, "Indian companies have put more investment into the UK than into the whole of the rest of the European Union put together".
He sought to deconstruct the third myth, that Britain is closed.
Bevan said that his country is "committed to reducing net migration" as it needs to "maintain social cohesion", but it was "equally committed to ensuring that the world's best and brightest still come to the UK, for the simple reason that it's in our own interest".
"Many of the world's best are Indian. So we will continue to welcome all genuine Indian visitors, students and business people to the UK," he said and assured that Britain would do "all we can to make it easy for Indians to get their visa".
Wooing Indian business people, he said Britain provides "special visa services for major investors, regular travellers, and high value customers".
On skilled workers, he said: "Britain continues to welcome those skilled workers who can fill gaps in the labour market which cannot be filled by UK residents."
He said: "After listening to Indian industry, we have made special arrangements for Indians coming to the UK under intra-company transfers - where a company based in India wishes to send a staff member to work for the company in the UK.
"We have deliberately not set a limit on the number of Indians who can come to the UK by this route. Last year we issued over 15,000 intra-company transfer and work visas."
On the fourth myth - the UK does not want Indian students - he said: "Britain actively seek to attract the best and brightest students to Britain", adding, that "UK has four of the top six universities in the world. The UK is a great place to live and study"
"We issued over 30,000 student visas in India last year, and 75 percent of those who applied were successful."
To the fifth myth - the UK and India are not as close as they were - Bevan said "since 2010 there has been significant progress in building a new partnership between the two countries".
He said their economic relationship is "starting to thrive again" and the two countries were on track to meet our target of doubling trade by 2015.
On Britain's changing its policy towards Narendra Modi-ruled Gujarat, he said: "Our belief that India will matter more and more in future, and that all of India matters, also played a part in our recent decision to change our policy on Gujarat."