Far greater India-UK cooperation on issue of fugitives: Indian envoy
India's outgoing High Commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha, believes he is concluding his tenure at a time when there is far greater cooperation between both governments. He feels there is greater cooperation on contentious issues such as fugitives from the Indian justice system finding refuge in Britain. The senior diplomat retires from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) this month after 37 years.
Sinha says issue of fugitives registered marked improvement
Sinha said that fugitivity was among the areas that registered marked improvement to ensure people don't misuse freedoms offered in the UK to escape justice in India. Some high-profile fugitive cases from justice coincided with his 23-month posting at the Indian High Commission, London, include Vijay Mallya's extradition trial. Mallya is wanted in India on fraud and money-laundering charges amounting to nearly Rs. 9,000cr.
Terrorism is a significant area of closer engagement: Sinha
"The kind of cooperation we have now, perhaps didn't exist earlier or was much less," Sinha said. He highlighted terrorism as a significant area of closer engagement and realization in Britain of the dangers posed by India's immediate neighborhood of Pakistan.
Sinha says there is considerable instability in India's neighborhood
Sinha said, "In our neighborhood, there is considerable instability. There is extremism, there is terrorism and that affects not just India but the entire world." "The UK has suffered last year from terrorist attacks, some of the provenance of which may be from our neighborhood. It is important that we cooperate, and the good thing is that we are already doing so," he added.
Indian envoy on the issue of UK visa for Indians
On the persistent sticking point of the UK visa offer for Indians, Sinha said the debate must be put in "perspective" as only one aspect of a broader relationship. UK often links the issue of a stricter visa regime for Indian students/professionals with the issue of "overstayers". "I am not disputing...there are overstayers, but solid evidence is needed to back it up," he said.
About the UK-India consular relationship
Among some of the inexplicable aspects of the UK-India consular relationship is the fact that while India has an agreement with 19 European Union (EU) countries for visa-free travel of diplomatic passport-holders, Britain continues to hold out from signing a similar deal. Also, recently an expanded list of countries to be offered a simplified student visa application system to UK universities excluded India.
Indian student numbers dropped drastically from 5-6 years ago: Sinha
Sinha said, "Indian student numbers have dropped drastically from five-six years ago, almost 50%. Now, encouragingly, the numbers are going up, but they are still far short of earlier, with the UK losing out to other destinations." "The UK needs professionals. There is already a relationship, which would be further strengthened by sensible policies," the IFS officer added.
Sinha says UK is one of India's biggest investors
The UK is one of the largest investors into India and stepped up investments in recent years reflect its confidence in the Indian market, Sinha said. A series of high-profile visits, most recently that of PM Narendra Modi's visit for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, and the UK-India Year of Culture 2017 are among highlights of Sinha's UK posting.
Sinha to head back to India with successor Ruchi Ghanshyam
Sinha's efforts of outreaching to the Indian community, including gurdwaras and Sikh groups, and celebrating each Indian state at India House in London were among some of the initiatives he hopes would have an enduring impact on India-UK ties. Sinha will return to India next week with his successor, Ruchi Ghanshyam, set to take over as Indian High Commissioner to the UK in November.