British Indian minister to take part in PBD

New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) Priti Patel, Britain’s minister for employment and Prime Minister David Cameron’s Indian diaspora champion, will be on a three-day visit to India from January 7 during which she will take part in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here.

The British Indian politician, who will visit Ahmedabad, Kolkata and New Delhi from January 7 to 9, will be the first British minister to visit India in 2016, the British High Commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Her visit aims to build on the momentum created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in November 2015,” it said.

Patel, according to the statement, will focus on strengthening people-to-people and cultural ties, and on expanding business links between Britain and India.

“She will also extend the UK’s commitment to support Prime Minister Modi’s Skills India project and formally open the United Kingdom’s newest diplomatic mission in India,” it stated.

In a statement, Patel said: “Prime Minister Modi’s historic visit to the UK showcased the successful collaboration between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy, and it truly marked a new era in our relationship.”

“It provided a genuine opportunity for our two great nations to come together to deepen our existing bonds in business, trade, education, defence, security, culture and much more and in every walk of life our cooperation is creating skills and opportunities for our people. I am delighted to be visiting India this week to build on this momentum and progress.”

Patel will begin her visit in Gujarat, where she will inaugurate the new British deputy high commission in Ahmedabad. This will be the seventh British deputy high commission in India, the country with the largest British diplomatic network.

She will meet Gujarat Governor O.P. Kohli, parliament member Devusinh Chauhan and BJP youth leader Amit Thaker, according to the high commission.

Britain is the largest source of foreign direct investment into Gujarat and during her discussions with state government officials, Patel will discuss how bilateral trade and investment, innovation, technology and cultural ties between Gujarat and Britain can be enhanced.

In Kolkata, she will speak at the inauguration of the Bengal Global Business Summit and meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to take forward Bengal-Britain business and cultural ties.

While in Kolkata, she will also launch the “Roadmap on Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient Kolkata Strategy”.

Britain and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation have been collaborating for two years to prepare this strategy paper, which aims to create a “Future Climate Smart Kolkata”, the statement said.

The roadmap contains recommendations across 20 sectors, including disaster management, health, low-carbon procurement, resource conservation and use of solar energy.

In New Delhi, Patel will participate in the launch of the new UK-India Skills Pledge agreed during Modi’s visit to Britain.

Eleven British companies have committed to support skills development in India. They are: HSBC, Barclays, BG Group, Rolls Royce, OCS, Mott Macdonald, G4S, BP, Aviva, M&S, GSK.

“These British companies currently train around 350,000 people in India and invest around 12.7 million pounds ($18.6 million) in training both to meet internal training requirements and as part of our wide ranging CSR programmes,” the statement said.

“By 2020, they expect to train 670,000 people and invest around 25 million pounds in skills training in India,” it added.

While in Delhi, Patel will participate in this year’s edition of the PBD, the annual conference of the Indian diaspora, to be held from January 8 to 10.

This year’s PBD is being planned differently with an objective of developing a new paradigm for engagement with the diaspora over the next decade, according to an official statement.

After the inaugural session, there will be a plenary session, with Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Sushma Swaraj and union ministers and chief ministers of states attending it.

Participation in the PBD this year is through invitation only and not through online registration as was the practice. There would be an attempt to do an expert study on various issues concerning the diaspora and areas of mutual benefit to India and to them, which would help making new policies for the benefit of India and the diaspora.

The traditional PBD conference will be held every alternative year, with a partner state and the next such convention will be held in 2017.

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