British MP Shailesh Vara
British MP Shailesh Vara

London: Indian-origin British MP Shailesh Vara has been appointed co-chairman of the Conservative Friends of India, a group that aims to build better links between the diaspora and the party.

The 56-year-old Gujarati-origin MP joins co-chair Indian-origin businessman Ranjit Singh Baxi in the group, which is affiliated to the UK's ruling Conservative Party.

“I am delighted to be co-chairman of CF India again. The relationship between the Conservative party and the Indian diaspora continues to grow closer by the day and I look forward to furthering that aim,” Vara said in a statement.

“There is much work to be done, both in terms of deepening the Conservative party’s relationship with the British Indian diaspora and strengthening our very close links with India.

“CF India is one of the party’s strongest affiliated groups and I look forward to working with the very able and committed Ranjit Baxi to make the group even stronger.”

In 2014, Vara was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the Indian government in recognition of his work in promoting closer ties between the UK and India.

It is the highest award that the Indian government confers on people of Indian origin living abroad.

Welcoming Vara, Baxi said : “I am very pleased to welcome Shailesh Vara back to the position of CF India Co-Chairman.

"We have an exciting programme of events and activity planned for the coming year and we can do nothing but accelerate with the sound advice and ideas of one of the most senior Indian-origin politicians in the UK.

“Shailesh is someone who will give time and effort to whatever task is in hand and we are looking forward to working with him.”

CF-India said in a statement, Vara will bring a “wealth of experience to the role, which he has held
previously. He is a former justice minister and minister in the Department for Work and Pensions as well as having served as a government whip.”

Vara’s appointment follows the recent ministerial reshuffle, under British Prime Minister Theresa May, when Indian-origin MP Alok Sharma, who had been the Conservative Friends of India (CF-India) co-chairman, was made Minister for Asia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Sharma is now working with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to build links with India following Brexit.

Vara had served as a justice minister and minister in the UK's Department for Work and Pensions during former Prime Minister David Cameron’s tenure.

He was educated at Aylesbury Grammar School and Brunel University and qualified as a solicitor. He is married with two children.

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