London: Calling UK Prime Minister Theresa May's immigration policy "idiotic", leader of Liberal Democrats Vince Cable has said her clampdown on overseas students has adversely affected the British economy.
UK's new policy requires students to return home after their courses end, a move that has led to fall in Indian students enrolling in British universities by 50 per cent.
The number of study visas issued to Indian nationals fell from 68,238 in 2010 to 11,864 this year, official UK figures show.
Cable, a former Business Secretary, told members of the Indian Journalists Association here yesterday that "the immigration policy pursued by "May is idiotic, particularly the government's decision to clamp down on foreign students. May insists on including foreign students as part of the immigrants. First thing is students should be removed from net immigration".
Answering questions, the Liberal Democrat leader said "The government is not going to relax on immigration from the Indian sub-continent".
A majority of Indian students who come to the UK for higher education tend to leave at the end of their degree, according to official data.
Between April 2016 and April 2017, as many as 7,469 Indian students left before the expiry of their student visas with only 2,209 choosing to extend their visas to remain in Britain, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said.
Indian students accounted for approximately 9,600 visas granted in 2016 (or 7 per cent), but in 2010 they accounted for around one in five of visas granted at 40,500, the figures said.
Cable said he has been involved with India as a country for over 50 years, travelling across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. He was at the Wagah Board on the first day of Indo-Pakistan war in 1965. His wife, he said, is of Indian-origin from East Africa.
Cable said as business secretary, he went with then Prime Minister David Cameron to India four times. Liberal Democrats were in coalition with Conservative party at that time.
He also said that he plans to visit Jaipur next year to attend the Jaipur Book Festival as author of his recently published book 'Open Arms'.
He said India is "potentially" one of two economic super-powers of the 21st century in terms of purchasing power and growth.
He said one of the problems of Brexit is that "it is totally and completely dominating the British political life".
He said lack of attention has resulted in the market share of British exports to India dwindling.
"It is very little, we need to prioritise it," he stated.