Help develop India, new envoy Navtej Sarna tells UK Indians

London, Feb 13 (IANS) India’s new envoy Navtej Sarna told leading members of the Indian community in the UK that India House is an “institution open to all Indians” and the community could play a “huge role” in helping to channelise foreign investment and in the development of its key infrastructure.

At a well attended Indian community function here on Friday, Sarna, who took over from Ranjan Mathai last month, said Indians in the UK had flourished extensively in every field of human endeavour, economics and business, politics, culture, medicine and finance, and had acquired a political weight and strong voice.

“Even while they flourish in the UK they have not forgotten their cultural roots. On the contrary, their culture has become part of British life — tandoori is more popular than fish and chips, Bhangra is a byword in London,” the high commissioner said.

Sarna said UK’s Indian community has a huge role to play in helping India attract foreign investment and expertise that would help develop its infrastructure, its ports, airports and smart cities and the cleaning of the Ganga river.

“The intention of the High Commission is to initiate a two way conversation with members of the community wherein all problems could be freely shared and discussed,” he said.

The High Commission would make every effort to resolve “all concerns”, said Sarna.

“This is actually the first of such conversations,” he told about 100 representatives of social and cultural associations of the Indian diaspora and Indian origin members of the British Parliament who attended the function.

Welcoming the community to India House, the historic building housing the Indian High Commission, Sarna said all community members must feel that “this is their home” and they would always be welcome here.

Each community member’s life journey could be described as A Tale of Two Countries — that of India and the UK, that of the “matrabhumi” and the “karmabhumi,” said Sarna, an acclaimed author and short story writer in his personal life.

The high commissioner also noted that the UK had the highest share of electronic visas that had been issued — 24 percent, adding that 300,000 OCI cards (multiple entry lifelong visa for Overseas Citizens of India) had been issued and 300 applications were being received every day.

He said the high commission had recently expanded its telephone exchange to one with 15 lines so that queries could be more efficiently handled.

There are an estimated over a million people of Indian origin in the UK, comprising the largest single ethnic minority group in Britain making up almost a quarter of the total ethnic minority population.

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