This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2019: H/Commons committee criticises UK’s policy
Says Government Must Make It Easier For Indian Tourists, Students & Skilled Workers To Enter UK
A damning report released on Monday by the House of Commons foreign affairs committee, which scrutinises the work of the UK foreign office, said the government must apologise for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre immediately and make it easier for Indian tourists, students and skilled workers to enter the UK.
“Complacency and reliance on historical connections has led Britain to fall behind other countries when it comes to getting a share of India’s fast-growing global trade, international students, technology entrepreneurs and defence industry,” the report said.
Now, with India about to overtake the UK’s economy, Britain should support India’s efforts to gain greater status within multilateral bodies, such as a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a greater voice in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and a leadership role in the Commonwealth, it added.
The report slammed the UK foreign and commonwealth office’s policies towards India on all fronts, pointing out that New Delhi should be an important strategic partner to the UK in the post-Brexit global order. But instead, it said, UK policies were being driven by net migration targets set by the home office, putting too much focus on its relations with China and Pakistan and not considering what India really wants.
The report “Building bridges: Reawakening UK-India Ties”, based on oral and written submissions from a range of organisations and individuals working within the UK-India corridor, called for the UK to work to Delhi’s priorities, including gaining influence on the global stage and raising living standards at home.”
The report said there was a perception amongst Indians that Chinese nationals have easier access to the UK and this was, according to Sir James Bevan, former high commissioner to India, because of “the perception that Indian nationals were more likely to overstay”. It proposed that the foreign office pushes for visa reforms that include offering Indians a bespoke multiple-entry visa at least as good as the two-year one available to Chinese nationals — currently almost four times cheaper than what Indians are entitled to.
It also suggested facilitating the movement of skilled Indian professionals for shortterm projects, adding India to the low-risk category of countries that enjoy relaxed student visa requirements, giving UK varsities a greater role in approving student visas directly, and increasing the post-study visa available to international students to at least two years.
“There is little excuse for failing to issue an apology for atrocities such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre,” the report continued. “The lack of clarity around the decision is particularly unhelpful. The government missed an important symbolic opportunity by failing to issue a full apology on the 100th anniversary of the crime and should rectify this without delay.”
The report also said despite India being the world’s second-biggest importer of major arms, France, Israel, and the US had all seen rises in arms sales to India over the last decade while UK sales have flatlined. “While India wishes for closer security and defence cooperation..., India feels the UK is instead more focused on economic ties.”
The report pointed out there had been a shift in the balance of power and the UK needed to “reset the relationship” to avoid a continuation of “expensive missed opportunities”. It also warned that the UK’s keenness to engage with Chinese projects through the BRI initiative should not be pursued at the expense of its relationship with India.
1993-2016: No actual extraditions from the UK
Neeraj Chauhan | TNN | May 12, 2016
Pact signed in 1993, but not a single accused handed over by UK
Officials said the reasons cited by British courts and authorities to reject extradition were "insufficient evidence" or "incomplete paperwork".
Ever since India and the UK signed an extradition treaty in 1993, Britain has not handed over a single fugitive wanted by authorities here. The accused, after escaping to the UK, usually take the plea that the Indian government/agencies were biased towards them. This, and the provision of death penalty in India and the European Commission's provisions on human rights pose major hurdles in their extradition.
According to official figures, some 131 extradition requests for persons wanted by India are pending with the UK. Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju had even taken up the matter with the UK's minister of state for immigration James Brokenshire during his New Delhi visit in February. Officials said the reasons cited by British courts and authorities to reject extradition were "insufficient evidence" or "incomplete paperwork".
"Subsequently, extradition is refused usually after the accused takes a plea there that he/she has been charged due to political reasons or vested interest and that he/she is likely to be deprived of human rights in India and could face torture. So many cases have been denied by the UK on the ground that extradition would deny the person the right to family life (Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights)," said a senior official.
Examples of high profile fugitives whose extradition was rejected by UK courts are Ravi Shankaran, wanted in the naval war room leak case; Tiger Hanif, wanted in connection with two bomb attacks in Gujarat in 1993; and music director Nadeem Saifi, charged and later acquitted in the Gulshan Kumar murder case. The government also made efforts to bring former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi back but failed.
Exercise ‘Ajeya Warrior’, a four week Indo-UK joint military exercise, was aimed at enhancing counter terrorism skills. It was held at Belgaum, Karnataka.
Exercise AJEYA WARRIOR, a Joint Exercise between the armies of India and UK, wasconducted from 13 June to 28 June 2015 at Westdown Camp, Salisbury Plains Training Area, UK.
The Exercise is held biannually in the two countries, alternatively. The aim of the Exercise is to build and promote positive military relations between Indian and UK Army and to enhance their ability to undertake joint tactical level operations in Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism Environment under United Nations Charter.
A Company strength participated from a Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army, nominated for the Exercise. The Indian Army Contingent after reaching the Exercise location at Westdown Camp, UK, familiarised with the weapons, equipment, tactical drills and orient themselves with the terrain.
A 14-day joint training exercise 'Ajeya Warrior-2017' between Indian and British armies started at Mahajan field firing range in Jaisalmer.
The exercise continues till December 14. The training contingents comprise one company (approximately 120 personnel) strength each from 20th Battalion, The Rajputana Rifles from the Indian Army and a similar strength from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment of the British Army.
Defence spokesman Lt Colonel Manish Ojha said the exercise between the two countries is third such bilateral exercise which takes place regularly under the UN mandate of counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations. It helps the nations hone their skills jointly and practice anti-terrorist operations to ensure that there are no hitches when they have to operate together. Through the exercise, the two armies develop better understanding of each other's tactics, weapons and equipment.
2017, ICJ issue: Worst diplomatic showdown in decades
Britain Threatens To Invoke Never-Before-Used Mechanism To Stall India Bid
India and the UK are headed for what might turn out to be the worst diplomatic showdown between the two nations in decades.
In a brazen attempt to stall the surge in support for India’s candidate for the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Dalveer Bhandari, in the last round of voting at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the UK is threatening to use its power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to end the process of voting.
At an informal discussion of the UNSC, the UK is learnt to have stated that it was considering stalling further voting at the UN after a single round of balloting on Monday.
It has instead proposed an arcane mechanism, that of a joint conference comprising three members each from the UNGA and the UNSC, as a substitute to continued voting. What has angered India, which is actively working to thwart Britain’s move, is that the mechanism has never been used in the history of the ICJ to break a deadlock in the appointment of judges.
The proposal that the UK threatens to initiate in the SC, as support for its candidate Christopher Greenwood drops sharply in the UNGA, is attracting considerable criticism from across a broad spectrum of countries. As the previous rounds of voting have shown, Bhandari enjoys overwhelming support in the UNGA with a near 2/3rd majority (121 countries favoured him over Britain’s candidate), but Greenwood has managed to negate it with a slender lead in the 15-member UNSC with help from its permanent members. A candidate needs a majority in both the UNGA and the UNSC to win.
There have been many such deadlocks in the past too, most recently in 2014 and 2011, but these were always resolved by more rounds of voting. The UK though is trying to duck voting, saying just one more vote on Monday is enough before forming a joint conference, an untried mechanism that may take weeks to set up and months to yield any result.
A senior Indian official said the UK’s tactics to try and “steal the election outcome” was akin to those of the robber-baron Robert Clive and added, tongue in cheek, that the new India was no Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last Nawab of Bengal who was defeated by Clive.
The Indian diplomatic offensive at the UN has succeeded in stringing together an impressive coalition of countries from Africa, the Asia-Pacific and also Latin America. According to Indian officials, many former British colonies have joined India against their former colonial master.
The election, which started off as an effort to elect an individual judge to the ICJ, now has broader overtones as it has pitched a declining UK and a rising India in a highvoltage diplomatic battle.
Many UNGA members too have been taken aback by the UK’s threat to seek a joint conference as there exists an unequivocal legal opinion, provided in the 1984 UN Juridical Yearbook, that argues against resorting to that option. Para 21 of the yearbook clearly says that should a deadlock occur, a joint conference should not be automatically resorted to. “It seems more practical that the electoral organs should proceed to further meeting,” it says.
Indian officials feel that the UK’s “undemocratic tactics” may impact Britain’s standing in the Commonwealth, something that the UK will need to factor in as it prepares to host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in 2018.
In all previous cases of deadlock, there were several more rounds of balloting than have been completed this time. And on each occasion, the candidate consistently leading in the UNGA was elected ultimately.
Research helped India outvote UK
‘Victory Testimony Of Change That’s Underway’
A key piece of research dug out after hours of pouring over UN voting records by a diligent junior official at India’s permanent mission was instrumental in India torpedoing United Kingdom’s unprecedented proposal for a Joint Conference mechanism to break the ICJ deadlock.
India’s permanent representative to UN Syed Akbaruddin told TOI that the research by the official (name withheld on request) showed that in 1978, 2011and 2014, ICJ elections were held over more sessions, more meetings and more rounds of ballots than in 2017. In the Dalveer Bhandari-Christopher Greenwood direct face-off, only 6 rounds of voting had been held.
The contest between Bhandari and Greenwood was running its normal course until UK, as first reported by TOI on Sunday, added drama to it by proposing at an informal discussion of the Security Council that a Joint Conference of Council and General Assembly be formed — and the voting stalled — to break the deadlock. Britain feared more rounds of voting would lead to Bhandari acquiring over 2/3rd support in the Assembly. Just how India fought off this proposal in the last 72 hours is the real story behind the re-election of Bhandari.
Akbaruddin parried UK’s proposal by laying out findings in the research that in 1978, the Security Council had voted in 14 rounds, in 2014 the GA had voted in 15 rounds and in 12 rounds in 2011 without invoking any other mechanism.
“Also the findings indicated that in each of the past elections, final results were only at culmination of four
sessions. And so there was no reason to go for a new mechanism even before the end of the 4th session,” Akbaruddin told TOI.
For India, ousting a P-5 from its perch despite all other Permanent Members joining in support (they had together voted for Greenwood) is nothing short of historic. “Simply put, it has never ever happened before. It is therefore testimony of change that is under way. It shows that change is discernible and happens, if not by design then by chance,” said India’s top official at the UN.
“It is an acknowledgement that most countries recognise that India has credentials as a country for which space can be provided on important multilateral platforms. It reflects India’s ability to harness broadbased coalitions along a common vision of a more inclusive, open architecture of multi-lateralism that is appealing to a large number of states,” he added.
Akbaruddin was humble in victory as he said the resolution of the issue with UK within a framework of common values that reflected “the democratic spirit of the times” indicated a certain maturity of approach.
“This approach allows for tough hard-nosed tactics during negotiations coupled with ability to arrive at solutions that leave space for collaboration and cooperation once the outcome is decided,” he said.
Britain too was gracious in defeat, acknowledging the significance of its bilateral ties with India, even though it bowed out saying that this was “an ideal opportunity” to hold a Joint Conference to break the deadlock. But, as Akbaruddin said, researching years of election proceedings of the ICJ going back to several decades helped India outwit UK on that unprecedented move.
The findings indicated that in each of the past elections, final results were only at culmination of four sessions. And so there was no reason to go for a new mechanism even before the end of the fourth session
SYED AKBARUDDIN- India’s permanent representative to UN
Wide scope for UK-India partnership: Jeremy Corbyn
The Hindu, November 6, 2016
UK govt. failing India as true partner: Jeremy Corbyn
The Conservative Government has failed to treat its relationship with India as a true partnership, British Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn said on the eve of Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India. Corbyn called for the relationship to be imbued with “respect,” and pledged that a Labour government would adopt a very different policy to the Tories on immigration, in a wide-ranging interview with the Hindu on Saturday, that covered topics ranging from his vision of bilateral relations in post Brexit Britain to nuclear weapons and caste discrimination.
Workers rights and environmental protection would also be at the forefront of any future trade deal between India and post-Brexit Britain, he said. “There has to be a clear trade strategy for India. As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting India on a number of occasions, I have been impressed with the high level of practical innovative skill that there is in all Indian towns and villages that no longer exist in Europe. I think Europe can learn a bit from that.”
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
As Ms. May prepares to head to India, what is your message to India, and how do we build things like social justice into that relationship?
My message would be I have been to India a number of times myself and love and respect the country. I lead a party that is proud to be part of a multicultural, multilingual society in Britain and the inner London constituency I represent has university students from all over the world. Only yesterday I was with a group of students very concerned about their future in Britain because of the government’s — in my view — unfair behaviour towards students studying the English language here. I want us to be a welcoming place and think the growing links between our universities is wonderful. The way we make advances in education, and research is by sharing. We should look at India as a partner.
Does the British government treat India as a partner?
They look at India as a place to do business in and that’s fine but I’m not sure they fully appreciate that a partnership is something where you have to work two ways. Encouraging British students to study in India and making sure Indian students can stay here to get work experience before they decide what their next step is. There is a huge contribution of Indian intellectuals to Britain and the Labour Party, even back to the 1920s. We can learn and share a lot. Lets have some respect.
Brexit has unleashed anti-immigrant sentiment. What is the way to tackle this?
It’s utterly disgusting. The only way to deal with that irrational, vile behaviour is to stand up with all communities. What I did a week after the Brexit vote was organise locally a very large meeting of all communities and invited all to speak. I had Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish speakers, people of no particular faith. We are one community and we should stand together. I say to the people who think its ok to blame minorities: all you build is hatred, you haven’t built houses, schools or trained any doctors. I want us to work together and recognize the enormous contribution made by people who have made their homes in Britain.
How would your immigration policy differ from the government’s?
I would restore the right of students to undertake work experience. If you become a doctor, architect, lawyer, then you need time to build it up. The other issue is around family reunion: the income level set is often unrealistically high and there is a lot of stress for families. On doctors, the government should recognise that without foreign doctors, the NHS would collapse. I think the contribution that Indian doctors have made to Britain is phenomenal. I want to develop and improve the NHS but the idea that you could somehow survive without foreign doctors is simply untenable. I advise any of those who think it could to visit any hospital and see who is working there.
What lessons does your victory in two Labour Party elections have for left wing movements across the world?
That if we don’t challenge the economic orthodoxy that drives down the welfare state, we disappear as the Left and we disappear as a social democratic force. I think with our two wins we have shown just how strong the feeling is that there has to be a political and economic alternative. Our two victories were completely against the odds with very little support from the media and the establishment yet we got elected and our party membership is going up to 600,000. I think that says something about our appeal.
With parliamentary approval for Brexit looking increasingly likely, what will you be pushing for?
Our priorities are one: open market access to Europe; two: the protection of the working time directive and workers rights protections achieved through Europe and three: environmental protection regulations. The court ruling doesn’t necessarily make a big difference to the timetable but does mean Parliament will have to have a say. The genie is out of the bottle and I think there is inevitably going to be a parliamentary discussion on this. We are also building strong and close relations with socialist parties and trade unions across Europe.
As a long-time opponent of nuclear weapons what is your take on current India-Pakistan relations. What is the way forward?
I have spent my life opposing nuclear weapons and have spoken of the need for nuclear disarmament of India and Pakistan. We need the voice of peace from both countries. It does mean reducing tensions. I hope there can be improved relations by the de-escalation of tensions and taking nuclear weapons off the board.
What kind of a deal will Britain want to reach with India post-Brexit?
The traditional EU trade agreements have usually included a human element to it, which we would want and I would want to see environmental protection strengthened. We need to have more respect for workers rights and the environment. There has to be a clear trade strategy for India. As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting India on a number of occasions, I have been impressed with the high level of practical, innovative skill that there is in all Indian towns and villages that no longer exist in Europe. I think Europe can learn a bit from that.
2016-17: India, China receive the bulk
In Student Visas, India Sees Almost 10% Rise
Visitor visas constituted the bulk of total visas granted by the UK to nationalities in non-European Economic Area (EEA) during financial year ended June 30, 2017. Nearly 50% of visitors were from China and India.
Of the total 26.3 lakh visas issued by the UK during this period, 20.38 lakh or 77% were for visitors alone. The aggregate number of visitor visas reflected a rise of 8% over the previous year ended June 30, 2016. Of the 20.38 lakh visitor visas, Chinese were allotted 26% and Indians 20%. The primary visa categories include visitor, work and study .
According to the UK's home office, as many as 4.14 lakh Indians obtained visitor visas, a rise of 10% from the previous corresponding period. By comparison, those granted to the Chinese, excluding from Hong Kong, rose 24% to 5.36 lakh.
Aside from visitor visas, the most common ones granted to non-EEA nationals include study visas (excluding for short-term courses). During the year ended June 2017, 2.13 lakh such visas were granted, a 4% increase over the previous year.
Visas granted to the three largest non-EEA student nationalities saw an increase too. Chinese students were issued 82,200 visas, a rise of 17% from the previous financial year; Americans 14,400 visas, up just 1% and Indians 11,700, an almost 10% rise, states the UK's home office.
The EEA brings together the Europena Union countries and a few others such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland into a single market--allowing for free movement of people.
Thus, the UK home office statistics on visas include only non-EEA countries. The of ficial statement, though, explains that some non-EEA nationalities such as Americans do not normally require a visa to visit the UK. Consequently , the number of visitor visas granted is much lower than the total number of arrivals.
While Brexit may change the scenario, the number of visas issued to skilled workers remained fairly constant during the 12-month period ended June 30, 2017, compared with the corresponding period in the earlier year. There was an insignificant decline of 1.25% to 92,805 from 93,935.
The earlier trend continued, with Indian nationals accounting for nearly 58% (or 53,366) of the total skilled work visas granted. US nationals were the next largest group with 9,144 Tier-II visas granted to them or 10% of the total in this category.
In the previous corresponding year, Indians had obtained 53,548 Tier-II visas or 57% of the total visas in this category , whereas Americans with 10,019 were issued 11% of these visas. Work visas across all categories, which include Tier-I (unskilled), youth mobility and temporary ones saw a marginal decline of 2% from 1.66 lakh visas in June 2016 to 1.63 lakh visas.
The impact of Brexit has shown some signs with EU nationals gradually migrating out of the UK. Latest available figures for a 12month period up to March 2017 show that the net migration or the difference between the number of people entering and leaving the UK, was 2.46 lakh, a decrease of 81,000 from the previous year.
According to a Uniten Kingdon-based immigration counsel, the government's initial aim was to bring the net migration to below one lakh people a year. However, there has been internal discontent on this issue and the industry fears a brain drain should this happen.
“Indian workers are largely in the skilled category. Further, several of them are on company secondments. It is too early to tell what will be the impact of Brexit on them,“ says this expert.
2018, India excluded from ‘low risk nation’ category for student visas
Indian students are outraged that relaxed UK study visa rules will apply to students from China and 25 other countries but not them.
In changes to its immigration policy tabled in Parliament on Friday, the UK Home Office announced a relaxation in the Tier-4 visa category for students from 26 countries deemed “low risk”. Other countries added to the list include Thailand and Mexico which, unlike India, are not in the Commonwealth.
A home office spokesperson confirmed to TOI that “India is not on the list”. The changes, effective July 6, aim to make it easier for international students to study in the UK by making checks on educational, financial and English language skill requirements less rigorous.
Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said the move was “another kick in the teeth for India”.
Cause of UK visa snub: India’s refusal to take back ‘overstayers’
Britain Says It’s Home To 1L Indian ‘Overstayers’, Delhi Puts Total At 2k
Bilateral relations between the UK and India have taken a nosedive ironically at the launch of the first ever ‘UK-India Week’, which was meant to celebrate the bond between the two countries.
The UK’s international trade secretary Liam Fox said on the sidelines of the launch event that the reason India was excluded from a list of countries offered easier access to student visas was because it had in April refused to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) promising to facilitate return of illegal Indian immigrants in the UK to India. His remarks went down like a lead balloon with officials at the Indian high commission in London.
The aim of the UK-India Week was to address prospects for post-Brexit partnerships. But instead, after day one of the event organised by PM Modi’s ex- communications director Manoj Ladwa, ties have hit an all-time low.
Responding to Fox’s remarks, an Indian high commission official told TOI, “It’s up to the British government to decide what kind of visas they want to give and whether they want closer ties with India. I feel the signals they are sending our way are wrong but whether they bring lasting damage to our relations is a longterm perspective. It’s for them to decide if they want to link this to the MoU, but if they do, they will have to bear the consequences. I am not confident this is going to turn out well.”
A UK foreign office spokesman said: “There is no limit on the number of genuine Indian students who can come to study in the UK, and the fact that last year saw a 30% increase in tier-4 visas issued to Indians is proof the current system allows for strong growth in this area. We continue to discuss finalising an agreement on the returns of Indian nationals in the UK who are here illegally, with the hope that it will be ratified and implemented as soon as possible.”
Britain believes there are 100,000 illegal Indian immigrants in the UK whereas India puts the figure at 2,000.
On Monday, at the release of an edition of ‘The 100 Most Influential in UK-India Relations’, Fox surprisingly helped sour ties by saying, “There is always a demand for easier norms, but we cannot look at that without addressing the issue of overstayers.”
Junior home minister Kiren Rijiju initialled the MoU in January but PM Modi pulled out of signing it when he visited the UK in April. Sources at the Indian high commission had told TOI at the time that the MoU had not been signed because India was “not seeing any progress on easing of visas for Indians”.
Indian diplomacy foils Pakistan backed Kashmir- Day
Mostly Pak-Origin Lawmakers Attend Anti-India Event
India’s quiet diplomacy with the UK, including a demarche asking the British government to not allow its soil to be used for propaganda against India, ensured that Pakistan backed events on the so called Kashmir Solidarity Day were a non-starter, government sources familiar with the issue said.
UK maintained all along that Pakistan foreign minister S M Qureshi was in London on a private visit and that no government official was going to interact with him. According to authorities here, Pakistan officials even tried to arrange an “accidental” meeting for Qureshi with senior UK government officials but that too was apparently not granted.
Most of the MPs who joined the Kashmir conference on British Parliament premises were said to be of Pakistani origin. The conference was attended by former Norway PM Kjell Bondevik who was in news recently for his visit to Srinagar where he held talks with representatives of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, J&K Youth Development Forum and All Party Hurriyat Conference. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had then clarified that India had no role in organising his visit or any of his meetings.
The conference in British Parliament was organised by UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan (APPG-Pakistan) chairperson Rehman Chisti. However, several senior members of the group stayed away from the conference. Shadow foreign secretary of Labour Party Emily Thornberry and MP Debbie Abrahams, reports from London said, attended the event.
Qureshi said at the event that he had been empowered to be there both in his personal capacity as a democrat and as an ardent supporter of “Kashmir’s right to self-determination.”
The government believes that with Qureshi’s presence at these events, Pakistan has sought to further up the ante on Kashmir.