The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1997Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Statement on Calcutta British Council Visit – 9 January 1997

Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement on his visit to the British Council in Calcutta on 9th January 1997.


I am delighted to have this opportunity to see something of the work of the British Council in Calcutta.

The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international network for education, culture and development services in India. The Council’s operation in India is its largest anywhere in the world. It has four main offices and libraries: in Calcutta, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai; and libraries run in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in eight other major cities.

The Council is responsible for the management of aid projects, particularly in the education, health and science and technology sectors, with a total value of £125 million. The library network has 110,000 members and offers highly professional services in education counselling for students who want to study in Britain. The Council also manages a British examinations service and promotes the British publishing industry.

The Council actively supports the teaching of English world-wide, running 95 teaching centres with 120,000 students at any one time. In agreement with the Government of India, the Council will open its first direct teaching operation in New Delhi in March. Courses offered will include General and Business English. This will be extended to other offices, including Calcutta, later in the year.

In all its activities the British Council works with Indian partners and increasingly collaborates with private sector organisations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Chambers of Commerce and major Indian and British companies.

I am delighted to have the opportunity today to inaugurate the Indo-British Scholars Association in Eastern India, one of a series of scholars associations formed in India in the last few years. It will enable people who have studied in Britain to meet and promote continuing relationships in education between Britain and India.

We shall also be launching a number of other education and cultural initiatives, as part of Britain’s contribution to the celebration of India’s 50th anniversary of independence:

– the Chevening Gurukul scholarships: about a dozen awards to enable outstanding young future leaders, including administrators, bankers, journalists and businessmen, to follow a specially designed 12-week course at the London School of Economics, directed by Professor the Lord Desai. The course will include a three-week placement;
– the Padshahnama exhibition: an imperial manuscript from the court of Shah Jahan and now in The Queen’s Royal Collection will be on display for the first time in its history at the National Museum, New Delhi, from the end of January;
– a visit by the Royal Shakespeare Company to New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai and Bangalore. This will be the RSC’s first ever visit to India, with a highly acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors”;
– an exhibition in New Delhi and Mumbai of 150 world treasures from the unrivalled collections of the British Museum. HM The Queen and the President of India have agreed to be co-patrons. Entitled “The Enduring Image”, this will be the largest exhibition ever offered by the British Museum and the British Council to any country in the world. It will feature treasures from South Asia, Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, sub-Saharan Africa, Japan, China, the Greek and the Roman worlds and medieval Europe. An education programme will run alongside;
– the Indo-British Legal Forum, led by the Chief Justice of India and the British Chancellor will be held in Delhi in December 1997. The Forum provides an exchange of ideas between the Indian and British legal systems, encompassing diverse subjects such as human rights and court management.