India, UK agree to build education bond

Both nations decide to create Future Leaders Network
Last Updated 29 July 2010, 19:34 IST

Asserting that relations between the two countries will be taken to new heights, India and the United Kingdom on Thursday agreed to launch a new phase of the successful Education and Research Initiative, decided on the creation of the UK-India Future Leaders Network and signed an understanding on cultural co-operation.

While the Future Leaders Network will help create and sustain links between some of the most dynamic young leaders, the UK-India Education Initiative was applauded by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his British counterpart David Cameron.

The first phase of this jointly-funded initiative has helped establish over 400 collaborative ventures between Indian and British universities and schools from 2006 to 2011. The new phase will run for five years, from 2011 to 2015, and as before, both governments will contribute to it.

These initiatives were announced at the end of a day-long, hectic meetings between the two PMs and trade delegations during which the two sides announced setting up of the India-UK CEO Forum and India-UK Infrastructure Group besides doubling the quantum of trade in the next five years. Both sides welcomed the initiative of Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Welcome Trust, London to come together in a new collaboration to support the development of innovative healthcare products at affordable costs.

The cultural co-operation will provide a framework for a significant expansion of the rich cultural exchange between India and the UK. This expanded activity will include the first-ever exhibition in India of the Indian-born sculptor Anish Kapoor, in Delhi and Mumbai and staging of ‘A Disappearing Number’ inspired by the life of the India-born mathematical genius Ramanujan.

Both sides agreed that India and the UK had much to gain from co-operation in education, science and research, and a new emphasis on the jointly-funded collaborative research programmes.

Skill development

Earlier in the day, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal proposed that the two countries should work in the area of skill development. Sibal pointed out that equivalence of degrees was an issue, without which, mobility of students would continue to be a problem.

The two sides agreed that they should be ambitious in seeking to substantially increase trade and significantly increase investment between the UK and India. The CEOs Forum, which will be a small, high-level body, will be co-chaired by Peter Sands (CEO of Standard Chartered Bank) and Ratan Tata (Chairman of Tata Group). It will meet alternately in India and the UK and will make recommendations to the two governments on how to increase levels of trade and investment.

The two countries also agreed to review the mandate, composition and structure of relevant existing bilateral bodies in the area of trade, investment and economic cooperation, in order to re-energise joint efforts.

Britain rules out returning Kohinoor

Visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron has clearly ruled out the return of the Kohinoor diamond to India, saying if such demands were agreed to, it would lead to empty rooms in British museums, agencies report from New Delhi.

“I know there is also a great argument about the original provenance of the Kohinoor diamond. I’m afraid this will disappoint people, but it’s going to have to stay put,” Cameron said.

The issue about the fabled diamond, which was mined in the Deccan and is now part of the British crown jewels, had been raised by British MP of Indian origin Keith Vaz just before Cameron began his two-day visit to India.

Vaz had said in a statement: “I believe that this is the perfect opportunity for the Prime Minister to discuss the issue of the Kohinoor. It would be very fitting for the Kohinoor to return to the country in which it was mined so soon after the diamond jubilee of the Indian republic and 161 years after its removal from India.”

(Published 29 July 2010, 19:19 IST)

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