Mumbai: UK Prime Minister David Cameron, making a strong pitch for Indian investment, said the country would start issuing same-day business visas to applicants from the country.
“We are looking forward to the future. We want to be your partner of choice in this fantastic journey you are on,” Cameron said in Mumbai on Monday, at the start of a three-day trip to India.
Faster visa processing is a fresh attempt by the UK government to attract Indian industrialists to the country as it focuses on drumming up investment to revive a fading economy. The UK’s economy shrank 0.3% in October-December 2012 from July-September 2012 and was unchanged from the year-ago period as the country grapples with a manufacturing slowdown.
The liberal visa regime, when implemented, will make it easier for businessmen to travel to the UK at short notice. Currently, a first-time business visitor has to wait for a minimum 11 days before the application is processed, while it takes at least five days for others.
India-UK trade, which rose from £11 billion in 2009 to £15 billion in 2011, is on track to increase to £23 billion in 2015. There are 70 Indian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
“Indian investments contribute more than half of non-European investments in Britain. In India, Britain is the largest European investor. As (India) doubles its spending on healthcare (as a percentage of GDP) and adds 40 million more university spaces, we want to be here. We also want to participate in the development of the Mumbai-Bangalore economic corridor,” Cameron said.
The British Prime Minister is the head of a delegation of more than 200 people, the largest to any country from the UK. It includes 110 British businessmen.
Among the ranks of Indian industrialists attending the meeting with the British delegation in Mumbai were Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd, the holding company of the $100 billion Tata Group that with 45,000 people is the largest employer in the UK.
Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej Group, and Nikhil Meswani, executive director at Reliance Industries Ltd, were also present along with Naina Lal Kidwai, country head of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd (HSBC) India, Jaspal Singh Bindra, group executive director, Standard Chartered Plc, and P.J. Nayak, chief executive officer and country head, India, at Morgan Stanley.
Earlier in the day, Cameron started his three-day trip to India by addressing employees at Anglo-Dutch Unilever Plc’s Indian subsidiary Hindustan Unilever Ltd and students from the National Institute of Industrial Engineering.
Cameron, on his second visit to India, spoke about improving business relationships among other issues during his address at the HUL campus.
With India being seen as one of the top three economies in the world by 2030, the UK was interested in forging one of the “greatest partnerships of the century” with the South Asian nation in areas, including business, education, health, infrastructure development and planning.
Speaking of the measures taken by his government to improve ties, Cameron said there would be no limits to the number of students who want to come to UK universities to study. He also sought to ease the concerns about their subsequent employment. Students who complete their course and get a job can stay in the country, he said.
Apart from expediting business visas, even regular visas were getting processed in larger numbers with nine out of 10 visas getting approved, he said.
“India and Britain should be asking ourselves what more can we do to bring the barriers down,” said Cameron, who would like the Indian government to look at closing regulatory loopholes.