Defying the growing perception that the United Kingdom was closing as a preferred migration destination, the British envoy to New Zealand Laura Clarke has asserted that Indian workers still made 50 per cent of all visa applications granted last year.
Speaking to The Indian Weekender Ms Clarke also shrugged off any suggestions that there was any diffidence within the United Kingdom in engaging with India post-Brexit.
“I wouldn’t actually. In fact, I have heard this perception many times before, which is not correct,” Ms Clarke said on being probed about the seeming perception that the UK was falling behind in the global race to engage with a rising India.
“Brexit does not mean that the UK is turning inwards and less engaging with the rest of the world,” Ms Clarke asserted.
Ms Clarke was in the Indian Weekender studio on Tuesday, July 2, to discuss broader Indo-UK relationship, especially around the uncertainties of Brexit and willingness to engage with India and how the Indian diaspora living in the UK and mutually shared passion in cricket, was driving the bilateral relations forward.
Recently a British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has warned that Britain was falling behind in the global race to engage with India on its path to becoming an economic superpower, and called upon the Foreign Secretary to update their strategy on India, which could not rely on historical links from the days of empire.
Indeed this report reflects, and in part also perpetuates the growing perception that the UK was failing to tap on India as much as it should in its pursuit of a post-Brexit “Global-Britain.”
The perceived hindrances in restricting the flow of skilled Indian workforce in the UK has been highlighted as one of the significant challenges in the progress of post-Brexit bilateral engagement between the two countries.
However, putting aside any such negative perceptions, Ms Clark expressed confidence that the bilateral relations between the two countries were progressing on the right path.
“Obviously there is always more to do in advancing any bilateral relations, but I am confident that we are on the right track to take our relationship forward,” Ms Clarke said.
She identified economic cooperation, security cooperation and cricket and people to people relations called as the “living bridge” between the two countries by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the necessary foundation that will drive this bilateral relationship in the twenty-first century.
Ms Clarke’s previous role in London was as the Head of the South Asia Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which explains her deep connection with the relationship between UK and India.
In that role, she also had the opportunity of facilitating the inward visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the organising of public speech at the iconic Wembley stadium.
Emphasising on the role of the Indian diaspora in advancing relations between the two countries Ms Clarke said, “More than 80,000 people travelled from India to England to see the ongoing cricket world cup.”
“This is above and beyond 1 million people of the Indian origin that lives in the UK,” Ms Clarke said.
Ms Clarke was also at her cricketing-diplomatic best when asked on which team she would like to see winning the world cup 2019.
“England is my first choice. If not England then I would be happy if either India or New Zealand win the cup,” pat came the reply from the seasoned diplomat.