Chandigarh: Asserting that Britain is committed to further build stronger relations with India, UK’s High Commissioner James Bevan on Wednesday said they are eyeing to double the bilateral trade by 2015 and cooperate in a host of other areas including research and innovation.

Bevan also sought to allay fears that stringent immigration rules will hit the skilled Indian workers coming to UK.

Between 2010, when the bilateral trade stood at 10 billion pounds and Britain is hopeful that it will double by 2015, Bevan said addressing a news conference here.

He said both sides were also keen to give further fillip to the investments.

Bevan said that the UK has recently announced to open two more missions in India, making its presence in this country the largest diplomatic network of any country.

“We will be opening two new Deputy High Commissions in Chandigarh and Hyderabad,” he said.

“We will open the one in Chandigarh sooner rather than later. Hopefully, we will cut the red ribbon (inaugurate it) by the end of this year. A British diplomat will head this mission..Regarding the one in Hyderabad, we already have a building there. Next week, I will be travelling there and do the unofficial opening while we will try to have a VIP come down later (to do the formal opening),” he said.

Besides the British high commission in New Delhi, there are UK missions in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. It also has two trade offices in Pune and Ahmedabad.

Besides Punjab and Haryana, the new Chandigarh office will also be responsible for Britain’s relationship with the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Rajasthan.

“We are committed to developing a deeper, wider and stronger relations with India. We are particularly keen to develop a stronger relation with this part of the country. We believe States like Punjab, Haryana, (UT) Chandigarh and other states in this region have a bright future,” he said, adding there are very big opportunities for Britain in this region in terms of developing cooperation with the people.

Bevan also indicated that there were plans for further expansion and they were in discussions with the Indian authorities regarding this.

“The reason for the expansion here in Chandigarh and across India is confidence, the British Government’s confidence in India, in this region and that developing a stronger relation is in both sides interest,” he said.

Bevan, who was here to meet the politicians, bureaucrats and membeRsof the business community, said they were looking have partnerships across a whole lot of areas.

In the trade and investment sector, with India remaining one of the biggest investoRsin UK and vice versa, Britain is looking at areas to work together including infrastructure, roads, water supplies and solar energy.

He informed that MNC giants Vodafone and BP remain big investoRsin India and added that about 2/3rd of the total Indian investments in the European Union goes to UK.

“We will also have a global investment conference just before the upcoming Olympic Games, where top investoRsfrom around the world including India will be invited,” he said.

Britain is also keen to develop partnerships in the field of education and English language teaching.

With Punjab remaining agri-major state, UK can help the state with its post-harvest technologies.

“Also, there are opportunities in research and innovation,” he said, adding UK is quite good in these fields and the two sides can cooperate to have a “winning combination”.

Britain is also keen to work together in the area of life sciences and biotech and health care.

“We also want to further strengthen the cultural bonds and enhance people-to-people contact,” he said.

On the stringent immigration rules put in place by UK, Bevan said he too had read a lot about this in the media, but the fact is that “we remain very much open for all kinds of visitors”.

Maintaining that Indians were always welcome to UK, he said that to suggest that the door is closed is not true and added the “adjustments” in the rules were made to stop illegal immigrants and reduce the overall number of immigrants by letting in those who Britain thinks can contribute to the economy at the time of economic hardships.

Giving figures, he said last year Britain issued 30,000 visas to the Indian students, with rate of approval being 75%, 60,000 Indian business community people were given visas last year, with 95% cases being approved while 95% of the 2.5 lakh Indian visitoRswere issued the visas.

“…We are also serious in allowing the right kind of skilled immigrants, for example the IT professionals,” he said, adding Britain had made exception to their rules to allow inter-company transfer without any limit in the IT sector.

Replying to a question, Bevan said that he has been travelling to different parts of India recently, meeting people and feels that reverse brain-drain is taking place because of the opportunities opening up for the professionals back in India.