British PM seeks to soothe Indian alarm at immigration cap
British Prime Minister David Cameron sought Thursday to allay Indian concerns over a proposed immigration cap on non-EU citizens, arguing that it placed no barrier to the "brightest and best".
The permanent cap, to be introduced next year, has been queried by the Indian government, with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma warning of an adverse effect on trade relations.
Sharma has also voiced concerns of the impact on Indians wanting to study in Britain and the thousands of Indian doctors, nurses and engineers who seek employment there.
"It is wrong to say we can't have, at one and the same time, a sensible, controlled immigration and a dynamic and fully open economy," Cameron said during a round-table discussion on Britain-India trade relations.
On the issue of overseas students, he said previous immigration policy had had resulted in numerous "bogus colleges teaching bogus courses" with no quality control.
"What we want is the brightest and best from India and elsewhere. That just means having a proper system in place," he said.
British Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is part of a high-level delegation accompanying Cameron on his two-day visit to India, stressed that the cap would not hamper movement of staff by foreign investors.
"We're an open economy and we recognise that as part of that there have to be inter-company transfers, there have to be specialist staff," Cable said.
"The cap system will respect the needs for foreign investors from India and elsewhere to have an easy movement of their people," he added.
Cameron stated earlier in his visit that the Indian government would be among those consulted about the level at which the cap should be set before its introduction.
© 2010 AFP