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UK will take liberal view on visas to Indians: Straw

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The British Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, with the IBPF Executive Committee Member, Mr Suresh Prabhu, at a meeting with Indian businessmen in the Capital on Friday. - Ramesh Sharma

New Delhi , Feb. 18

THE British Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, today said that the UK would take a liberal view on granting visas to Indians.

Speaking to MPs and business leaders under the auspices of the Indo-British Parliamentary Forum of the FICCI, he said: "We grant 260,000 visa applications to India per year, which is by far the highest granted by any British High Commission anywhere in the world. I assure you that we will be even more liberal."

He added that the number of visas granted to Indians was rising and with the opening up of more direct flights between the two countries, more Indians will be allowed to visit the UK.

Mr Straw outlined the contours of the growing and dynamic global partnership between India and the UK based on the key concerns of security, sustainable development and strengthening of the international system.

He also said that the UK was in favour of expansion of the UN Security Council and favours granting of permanent seats to Germany, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The UK receives 60 per cent of all Indian investment in Europe with almost 500 companies investing in Britain, two-thirds of them in the knowledge-based economy.

Mr Straw also announced the appointment of a full-time police liaison officer at the British High Commission in New Delhi to oversee the co-operation of the Indian and UK police forces in fighting terrorism, and the wider threats from drugs, organised crime, illegal immigration and people-smuggling.

On the issue of sustainable development, he said: "The choice is not between growth and environmental protection but to achieve both at the same time."

Responding to the observations by the FICCI President, Mr Onkar S. Kanwar, the British Foreign Secretary said: "We look forward to working with India through the Renewable Energy and Energy-Efficiency Partnership (REEP)."

Earlier in the day, India and the UK signed an agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons.

The agreement was signed by Mr Straw and the Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil.

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