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India- UK relationship will continue to grow stronger post-Brexit’ says High Commissioner of India to UK during her maiden visit to Midlands'

January 22, 2019

Her Excellency Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam, High Commissoner of India to the UK, accompanied by her husband Ambassador A.R. Ghanashyam, undertook her maiden official visit to the Midlands on 18-19 January, 2019. The High Commissioner Mrs. Ghanashyam is the first woman career Diplomat to be appointed as India’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. She is also the second woman to be appointed since Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, who had served as India’s High Commissioner to the UK from 1954-1961.
During her visit, the High Commissioner held a series of meetings, and met a number of dignitaries including Parliamentarians, Councillors of Indian origin, leaders of faith organisations and members of the Indian diaspora.
High Commissioner visited the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at Coventry, and met its Founder and Chairman Prof. Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya on January 18, 2019. During the meeting, the High Commissioner appreciated the outstanding contributions of Lord Bhattacharyya to India-UK business partnership, to British industry and in playing an instrumental role in acquisition of JLR by Tatas and unique role that WMG has been playing in bridging the gap between the academia and the industry. She admired the way in which WMG has shaped up as a world-class institution since its inception, and expressed her desire to strengthen the institutional linkages between WMG and premier Indian institutions, to boost academic cooperation and encourage student exchange programmes. She also extended her congratulations to Lord Bhattacharyya on the recent re-naming of the National Automotive Innovation Centre as ‘Lord Bhattacharyya Building’ and the naming of the road leading up to the Building as ‘Lord Bhattacharyya Way’. Mr. David Mullins, Director for External and Internal Relations, WMG was also present during the meeting, which was followed by a tour of the facilities at the Lord Bhattacharyya Building.
High Commissioner also paid a visit to the East End Foods company in Birmingham on January 18, 2019. East End Foods, led by the Wouhra brothers, is one of the leading suppliers of Indian spices, and other Asian food products in the UK and European market. With more than 300 employees and annual turnover of GBP 200 million, it is one of the most reputed Indian-origin companies in the UK. During the visit, the company’s senior Directors including Mr. Jas Wouhra, Dr. Jason Wouhra, Mr. Roger Wouhra gave a briefing about the company’s operations and its history. The High Commissioner expressed keen interest on information relating to the sourcing of various raw ingredients, including the ingredients being sourced from India, and various other parts of the world. She later undertook a tour of the factory where senior Directors Mr. Jas Wouhra explained the various processes such ascleaning, grinding, blending and packaging processes. As she learnt about the success story of a family business that begun 40 years ago in a small corner shop that has grown today into the largest importers of ethnic foods in the UK, the High Commissioner appreciated the efforts of the Wouhra brothers, hailing from Punjab. She also congratulated them on their Indian venture at Pune, and assured the support of the HCI.

The final engagement on January 18th was a formal interaction of the High Commissioner with British Parliamentarians and Councillors of India-origin at the Hyatt Regency, Birmingham. Members of Parliamentarians present on the occasion were Mr. James Moris, Mr. John Spellar, Mr. Eddie Hughes and Mr. Mike Woods, from the House of Commons and Lord Mike Whitby along with his Ladyship from House of Lords. Lord Mayor of Birmingham Ms. Yvonne Mosquito, along with her consort, was also present. Among the Councillors present were Mr. Arun Photay from Wolverhampton, Mr. Chaman Lal from Birmingham, Mr. Ram Lakha from Coventry, and Dr. Nitish Rout from Stoke-on-Trent. 
Consul General Dr. Aman Puri introducing the High Commissioner to the assembled guests, expressed the hope that the keen interest taken by the new High Commissioner in strengthening and deepening the political ties between India and the UK would result in stronger bond between the two countries. In her address to the gathering, the High Commissioner thanked the Parliamentarians for their continued support in implementing some of the Government of India’s initiatives, which are in alignment with the British policies, and serves the interest of British-Indian communities. She added that India is keen to maintain and further strengthen trade and economic linkages between the two countries. She reiterated that the High Commission and the Consulate are actively promoting dissemination of information to British businesses/SMEs to facilitate setting up their business in India and assured that regular seminars/events will be also organised to inform stakeholders about the latest developments and improvements in Government policies and re-affirmed continued support of the Indian Government post-Brexit. Member of Parliament Mr. James Moris, on behalf of the British Parliamentarians and Councillors present, thanked the High Commissioner for her visit early during her tenure and assured her of all support and cooperation in future. Councillor Ram Lakha invited the High Commissioner to visit Coventry, his constituency, during her future visits to the region.
Engagements of January 19, 2019 comprised of a breakfast meeting with Bhai Sahib, Dr. Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, OBE, KSG, Sikh religious leader of Guru Nanak Nishkam Seva Jatha (GNNSJ), Birmingham and Chairman of the Nishkam Group of Charitable Organisations. She held fruitful discussions with the renowned spiritual leader, and lauded his outstanding work on interfaith cooperation. She acknowledged the significant contributions of GNNSJ at Patna Sahib and during the Consulate’s initiatives to mark the occasion of 350th Birth Anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh. The High Commissioner expressed the hope and confidence that GNNSJ will be extending the same kind of support and cooperation during the forthcoming celebrations of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji. She also congratulated Bhai Mohinder Singh on the projects being currently undertaken by GNNSJ at Bihar – Construction of Gurudwara Guru Nanak Sheetal Kund, and the project at Sultanpur Lodi in Punjab. 

The final engagement on January 19, 2019 was a visit to the ‘Gandhi Peace Centre’ located in the premises of Sri Venkateshwara (Balaji) Temple Complex in Tividale. The High Commissioner paid tribute and garlanded the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the recently inaugurated Gandhi Peace Centre which features a permanent exhibition on Gandhiji’s life and his messages, being displayed via interactive exhibits, photo clips and rare photographs. The High Commissioner took keen interest and appreciated the unique exhibition conveying the values and messages of Bapu. The visiting dignitaries were met at the Gandhi Peace Centre by Dr. Kanagaratnam, Chairman of Sri Venkateshwara (Balaji) Temple and other senior functionaries of the Gandhi Peace Centre. On completion of the tour of the Gandhi Peace Centre, the High Commissioner addressed the Indian community who had gathered within the Community Centre of the Temple Complex. Approximately 200 people had gathered from all across Midlands and North of England and included members of the Indian diaspora hailing from distant places like York, Coventry, Bradford, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Telford, Leicester etc. Expectations had started to build among the members of the public and the community leaders even before the commencement of the session to hear from and to interact with the new High Commissioner and enthusiastic members from outside Birmingham thronged the Hall from early morning braving the chilly weather. Distinguished dignitaries including Chairman of Balaji Temple Trust, Dr. Kanagaratnam, Mayor of Telford and Wrekin, Mr. Rajash Mehta, Former High Sheriff of Leicester and Deputy Lieutenant Mr. Resham Singh Sandhu, MBE, DL FRSA, Chairman of Federation of Muslim Organisation, Leicestershire Abdul Karim Gheewala, addressed the gathering during the occasion and welcomed the High Commissioner and Ambassador A.R. Ghanashyam. They assured their continued support and cooperation in co-hosting various upcoming activities and also made mention of the excellent and expeditious services being provided by the Consulate in Birmingham for the past few years. In her maiden address to the Indian diaspora, the High Commissioner said “All of you are true Ambassadors of India……..and you carry the torch for us”. Hailing the role played by the Indian community, High Commissioner praised the Indian diaspora for strengthening people-to-people bond between India and the UK. She encouraged members of the Indian diaspora, especially the younger generation to visit India, and see for themselves the progress and development happening in the fastest growing large economy of the world – their Motherland. She also expressed the hope to have many more engagements with the dynamic and active community in Midlands and North of England. The interaction concluded with the members and leaders of the Indian community facilitating the High Commissioner Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam and her husband Ambassador A.R. Ghanashyam with flower bouquets. After the community interaction the High Commissioner offered her obeisance at the Balaji Temple and was ceremonially welcomed by the Priests in the presence of some 250 odd devotees who had gathered there to offer their prayers.