London Gets New Indian Envoy

New Indian High Commissioner to UK Mr Vikram Doraiswami begins his tenure at India House in London … writes Ashis Ray

 It’s been a week since India’s new High Commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, has been in office. Perhaps not since P.C. Alexander took up this position in 1985, has a head of India’s diplomatic mission in Britain faced as challenging a circumstance vis-a-vis the Indian origin community in this country.

An Indian High Commissioner’s task in the UK is broadly divided into three responsibilities — improving relations with the host government; ensuring efficient consular services, including the issuance of passports and visas since this is significantly revenue generating; and managing the two million-odd Indian origin community.

Indian High Commissioner to UK Mr Vikram Doraiswami paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Parliament Square in London

  Doraiswami, 53, is one of the youngest Indian High Commissioners ever to be sent to Britain. In the past 25 years, career diplomats selected for this post have come either just after retirement or for a final term before doing so.

Salman Haidar, Ronen Sen, Kamlesh Sharma and Ranjan Mathai fell into the former category. Nareshwar Dayal, Shiv Mukerjee, Nalin Surie, Jaimini Bhagwati, Yash Sinha, Ruchi Ghanashyam and Gaitri Kumar belonged to the latter.

Doraiswami to his credit almost unprecedentedly hit the ground running. After landing in London, he went directly to statues of Indian icons in the British capital.

He tweeted, “started this new journey of service to #India with a personal moment before #Mahatma Gandhi and #BabaSahebAmbedkar.”

Indian High Commissioner to UK Mr Vikram Doraiswami paying tribute to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar

He also promptly attended to the host government, meeting senior officials in the defence ministry, the home office and the foreign office. A limited free trade agreement (FTA) is on the cards between the two nations, with a mutually declared target of concluding negotiations on this by Diwali.

After his discussions with the permanent secretary in the UK’s Ministry of Defence, David Williams, Doraiswami tweeted that he had a “rich exchange” on “imp issues of Defence & Security”, which he added “is an important pillar of India UK Roadmap 2030”. Whitehall is hopeful of enhancing its armaments exports to India.   

Following his talks with the permanent secretary in the Home Office, Matthew Rycroft, the High Commissioner said “here’s to progress together on migration, mobility, homeland security”. This was interpreted in diplomatic parlance as “work in progress”. Emigration to Britain has been a ticklish issue between the two sides since the 1960s. Finally, Doraiswami exchanged views with the permanent secretary in the Foreign Office, Philip Barton, formerly British High Commissioner to India.

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