Modi in London, British commission set to expand operations in Punjab region
Students, or the living bridge as Ayre calls them, are also a priority for the commission. Dismissing the perception that Britain has tightened the visa rules for Indian students, Ayre says there was a 27% rise in their number last year.punjab Updated: Apr 20, 2018 09:38 IST
From providing a solution to stubble burning and urban chaos in the region, promoting ease of doing business to IT collaborations and higher education, the British deputy high commission has its plate full as it gears up to expand its operations by opening a consular office here on May 7.
“I am going to be a very busy man, and I’m looking forward to it.” Andrew Ayre, the deputy commissioner, flashes a big grin as he leafs through the long list of bilateral agreements signed between India and the UK during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.
Ayre has just returned after leading a delegation of 15 IT investors from Chandigarh to the UK. “Most people don’t know it, but the IT city in Chandigarh has created 400 jobs in the UK,” says Ayre, adding how one in every 20 jobs in the formal sector in India is created by the United Kingdom, while India powers 110,000 jobs in Britain.
The consular office is good news for Brits in the region. “It will help us provide better service to British nationals who may find themselves in difficulty here,” said Ayre.
- Indo-UK bilateral trade increased by 15% in 2017
- UK companies create one in every 20 jobs in India’s organised private sector.
- India has the fourth largest number of investment projects in the UK
- Over 800 Indian companies have invested in the UK
The living bridge
Students, or the living bridge as Ayre calls them, are also a priority for the commission. Dismissing the perception that Britain has tightened the visa rules for Indian students, Ayre says there was a 27% rise in their number last year. “Over 94% of Indian students who apply for a British visa get it.”
The count of students going to the UK fell in 2010-2015 because Britain shut down bogus varsities, he explains.
The varsities in the region are increasingly partnering with British institutions. “I have seen at least six British universities, be it Aston, Birmingham or Nottingham Trent, visiting the city and the region for a tie-up,” says Ayre.
Aston University is behind the plant making pellets from paddy stubble in Rajpura. The plant was set up last December following the nationwide outrage over air pollution caused by paddy stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. Ayre says they can solve the problem by replicating the Rajpura model in the two states. “All that one plant needs is stubble from 400 acres to be profitable in the very first year. This is possible if government sets up farmer cooperatives,” says Ayre, adding that the Rajpura unit has already sold pellets to power plants. Incidentally, Ayre’s office runs UK’s agricultural relations with India.
The commission is also leading urban regeneration in Punjab, Uttarakhand, UT and Himachal. Chandigarh, says Ayre, will receive technical knowhow from its partner city of Nottingham, which boasts the best transport system in UK. We are on the brink of inking an agreement, says Ayre. Grant Thornton, a British consultancy, is already at work in Jalandhar to handle traffic and waste management. “Our aim is to work with people to find a solution, and not impose one on them,” says Ayre.
Tech tie-ups, especially in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) received high priority during PM Modi’s visit. “UK too is an IT powerhouse,” says Ayre. The Modi visit, he says, will translate into 5,000 new diagnostic centres in India with the help of AI.
The idea, he sums up, is to build lifelong relationships. “I fully believe what is good for India is good for the UK as well.”