British High Commissioner to India, Sir James David Bevan, delivered a talk on the topic “Reasons to be cheerful: Why now is the best time to be young,” on Thursday, 22 August 2013 at the Conference hall, FTK-CIT. The event was chaired by Vice-Chancellor S. M. Sajid. [Link to Text and Audio of the speech below.]
Vice-Chancellor S. M. Sajid formally introduced the British High Commissioner and thanked him for visiting Jamia. Sajid went on to give a brief history of Jamia, and explained why the university was now a proud institution. He said, “we have much to be cheerful for at Jamia” since it has been close to a 100 years since the establishment of the university. Inviting the High Commissioner to speak, Sajid said that he was optimistic about the relation between Jamia and the UK government: “we have very good close relations with you” and “we would like to increase the traffic and flow between the nations.”
High Commissioner Bevan started off his talk by stating that “it’s easy to be a pessimist,” but he was going to try and persuade the audience that being a young Indian right now was equivalent to winning the lottery. Stating various statistics, Bevan explained that living in the year 2013 was better than being alive at any other time in the past. Furthermore, he said that it was the best time for being a young Indian considering that in India, life expectancy was relatively high and the percentage of people living in absolute-poverty was relatively lower, and people nowadays have more freedom and democratic choice than before.
Talking about how the world was becoming a better place for women, he said that “all over the globe women are asserting and acquiring rights which men have long taken for granted.” In the end, Bevan said that it was better to be an optimist, not only because it was good for one’s health but also because of the bright future both the countries hold.
During the Q&A session, Bevan was asked by a member of the audience: why Britain, a democracy and a supporter of human rights, would invite Narendra Modi to England? Bevan replied that “Firstly, engagement is not endorsement; the job of diplomats is to meet people, to talk to people, to understand people, and including people that you may not agree with.” He went on to say, “Me going to Gujarat and meeting the chief minister was not an endorsement of Mr. Modi the man, or of his past, or of any political party.”Furthermore, he went on to say that Britain had concerns about the human rights situation in Gujarat since three British nationals were also among the people killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Through such engagement, the High Commissioner said that we might be able to find out more about those killings.
As far as Modi’s invitation to the UK is concerned, Bevan said he wanted to make it clear that it was not the UK government who had invited Modi to England but rather some British parliamentarians who did. And on the question whether the UK government would issue a visa to Modi if he applied, he refused to answer the question by saying that it was a “hypothetical question,” so he was not going to answer it.
Several other questions were asked pertaining to the British student visa and the various conditions being put on which made it harder for Indian students to travel to the UK. Bevan said that they had not restricted the number of students or visitors to the UK since Indian students still formed the second largest segment of the foreign student population in the country after the Chinese. The only thing they’ve limited is the intake of skilled workers because Britain already has enough skilled workers. He also denied that they were introducing a policy that required visa applicants to make a £3000 deposit, saying that it was only something that they had talked about but never implemented.
Lastly, the High Commissioner was asked about the British stance on the situation in Egypt and why the British government was still silent on that issue. He replied that they did not support military dictatorship in Egypt and were opposed to the killings of innocent civilians by the military.
1. Text: Link to full-text of British High Commissioner James Bevan’s speech:
2. Audio: Link to full-audio of British High Commissioner James Bevan’s speech here: