Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday welcomed India's “best and brightest” students to come to Britain as he launched the India Institute at King's College, London.
His remarks came amid growing concern about the safety of Indian students following the allegedly racist murder of Anuj Bidva in Salford, Manchester, over Christmas.
Mr. Hague also sought to address complaints about new immigration rules for non-European Union students which, critics believe, are too rigid. He said the old rules were “too chaotic” and encouraged “abuse.” They had been streamlined to attract the best students.
“We want the brightest and the best to come to Britain. We have made our immigration system far more efficient and targeted. For too many years it was chaotic. Over the past two years this government has put a stop to the abuse that had damaged the reputation of our immigration system. But we are clear that if you want to come to Britain legitimately as a student, a business person or a visitor, then you are very welcome in the U.K.,” he said.
The India Institute, claimed to be first centre of Indian studies of its kind in Britain, “could not have come at a better time,” he said given the Conservative-led coalition government's efforts to raise the level of British-India relations.
“We came into government seeking a new Special Relationship with India. We want a relationship between India and Britain that is stronger, wider, and deeper,” he said reiterating Britain's support for a permanent seat for India on the U.N. Security Council.
Mr. Hague congratulated Professor Sunil Khilnani, the noted historian and Director of the Institute, for “the foresight and vision behind this project.”
Prof. Khilnani, best-known for his book The Idea of India , said the Institute hoped to contribute “something new to the long tradition of research on India in the U.K. — a tradition still alive in parts…”
“King's College London is manifestly the right place for our new India Institute. King's is an invigorated university expanding its global research footprint and its engagement with the world — through its student body, its faculty, and its partnerships,” he said.
Ramachandra Guha, who holds the Philippe Roman Chair at the London School of Economics, described the Institute as “a scholarly initiative that is both admirable and exciting.”
Acting Indian High Commissioner to the U.K. Rajesh Prasad was among those who attended.