New Delhi: Eyeing India as a key trade partner after exiting from the European Union, the UK today announced a first-ever easier visa regime for Indian businessmen that will come with swifter passage through British airports and access to EU.
India had in past also sought easier visa regime for its nationals and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asked his counterpart Theresa May to provide "greater mobility" for its students and researchers.
Speaking at the India-UK Tech Summit, May said: "So we will offer, for the first time to any country that needs visas to enter Britain, what we called 'Registered Traveller Scheme'.
"That means the Indian nationals who frequently come to the UK and to fuel growth in both our countries, the entry process will become significantly easier," she said at the event organised by CII that was also attended by Modi.
She said the businesses will have to fill fewer forms, and they would get access to the EU-EEA (European Economic Area) passport control and swifter passage through British airports.
"In short, more opportunities for Britain and India and a clear message that Britain is very much open for business," she added.
Theresa May said it is not just the legal framework that are essential for effective trade and investment, it is about people too.
"It is crucial that those who do need to travel between our countries for business can do so, that is the reason why when I was Home Secretary, I made visa process for Indians much easier," May said.
She further said India now has one of the best UK visa services in the world with more application points than any other country and is the only place where it is possible to get a same day visa.
"...That happened because we listened to our businesses. And we are still listening. Listening to the fact that there are many people from India who are to bring their skill, ideas, businesses to Britain for the good of your economy and ours," May added.
Talking about removing trade and investment barriers, the UK Prime Minister said Britain is working side by side with India to make it easier to do business here.
"We can break down barriers and make it easier to do business...That is why the UK is working side by side with Prime Minister Modi to make it easier to do business in India, for example by strengthening intellectual property rights, and paving the way for world's leading services sector to operate in Indian market benefiting India and UK alike, But I am determined that we will go further," she said.
The UK Prime Minister said, "I will be discussing with Prime Minister Modi how we can increase the detail and depth of our trade and investment discussions, and identify what more we can do, now, to unleash our businesses, industries, exporters and investors."
She added "this does not need to wait for us to leave the EU". "As countries, we both need to ensure we take advantages of the opportunities for the century ahead and we can do so together," she said.
May further said that as Prime Minister Modi pursues his ambition for smart cities, 'Make in India' and 'Digital India', in Britain "we are focused on the economic reform and social reform and building the country that works for everyone".
"I believe we should throw our entire weight behind each other's efforts. In fact, Prime Minister Modi and I are going even further and announcing a new India-UK urban partnership focusing on smart cities," she added.
This is demonstration of long-term relationship, not just trading but sharing skills, technology expertise, she said.
Emphasising on the importance of India, the UK Prime Minister said that outside Europe, this is her first bilateral visit and "first ever trade mission".
"We listen to each other's music and eat each other's food and share a passionate rivalry with each other on cricket," she said, adding "I want to talk about the importance of the relationship today and the limitless possibilities that I believe would be open to us in the future".
Talking about importance of free trade, May said it creates rising tides that lifts all boats, it creates jobs, improves productivity, and improves living standards.
"We have a strong starting point with Britain investing in India more than any other G20 country and India investing in Britain that it does in all EU countries put together," she added.
May said that right now, British businesses are exporting everything from engines to insurance to India.
"...Those things are happening despite the continuous existence of barriers to trade and barriers to cooperation," she said while stressing on the needs to exchange ideas and technology.
The UK Prime Minister said that huge opportunities for tech companies exists in India as every second three Indians are experiencing internet for the first time, there is a billion plus people with so many graduates and startups.
"I am looking forward to visiting Bengaluru tomorrow to see the startup capital in India," she said.