New Delhi must respond to Britain’s discriminatory visa regime.
The British government has included India in a list of ‘high risk’ countries whose citizens will have to post a bond of £3000 (around Rs 275,000) when they apply for a six-month visa. The bond will be fully repaid when the visa-holder leaves Britain, but forfeited in cases of overstay and deportation. It will will apply to highest risk visitors and not to all visitors from the selected countries (LT Sachin Kalbag). The new visa policy is consistent with the Conservative government’s policy to reduce immigration.
How Britain designs its immigration and visa policies is entirely its prerogative, just as it is India’s prerogative to interpret the steep visa bond as an unfriendly act. David Cameron’s homilies for stronger ties with India’s are effectively pointless if Britain discriminates against ordinary Indians. Perhaps the British government has good reason to place India in a ‘high risk’ category as far as immigration is concerned. But then, if you desire strong, strategic ties with another state but see that country’s citizens as ‘high risk’ immigrants, then you are trying to have your tandoori naan and eat it too.
If the British government discriminates against Indian citizens—whatever the reason—then it must bear the geopolitical costs of doing so. New Delhi must review the scope and tenor of India’s relations with Britain. The first thing to discard is pretence. The biggest pretence and pretension is the absurd, anachronistic entity called the Commonwealth. What good is membership of the Commonwealth if the ostensible ‘leader’ of the grouping treats non-members more favourably than members? As this blogger has argued before, India must quit the Commonwealth. Some Indian diplomats will be deprived of lucrative offices, but it’s time bureaucratic interests are overruled by political ones. India’s scarce diplomatic capacity is wasted on the pointless pomposity of the Commonwealth.
It is unfathomable why the Indian government still accepts aid from its British counterpart. We don’t need it. Foreign aid only encourages fiscal irresponsibility in India.
This blog had been encouraged by David Cameron’s enthusiastic and seemingly sincere attempt to recast Britain’s ties with India into a genuine strategic partnership. The disappointment at Britain’s actions, therefore, is deeper. Immigration is not only a foreign policy issue that affects ordinary Indians. It is a matter of vital national interest in a world where easy movement of capital, ideas and people is a source of competitive advantage.