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UK Parliamentary committee to look into bilateral trade with India

Vidya Ram London | Updated on July 30, 2018

The committee sees the relationship as an important test case for the government’s ‘Global Britain’ strategy   -  alexis84

Will study impact of visa policy, regional security ties and counter terrorism

A British parliamentary committee is looking into relations between Britain and India — including the impact of Britain’s visa regime — as part of a wider examination of the future of ‘Global Britain’. The inquiry comes at a time when tensions between the two countries have heightened amid Indian concerns about British reluctance to ease visa norms for students and professionals and India’s decision to withdraw from the signing of an MoU on the return of illegal immigrants during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit earlier this year.

The India-focussed inquiry will look at the issue of bilateral trade — repeatedly touted by the government as one of the great opportunities for Britain post-Brexit — as well as the impact of Britain’s visa policy, and cooperation on regional security, counter terrorism, technology, innovation and multilateral institutions. “How we work with India will be key to our place in the world in coming decades,” said Tom Tugendhat, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

For better ties

The committee saw the relationship as an important “test case” for the government’s ‘Global Britain’ strategy, and pointed to a number of questions including how strong the bilateral relationship was, how Britain ought to balance political, strategic and trade issues in determining its relationship, how the two countries could work better in bodies such as the UN and G20, and whether the UK’s visa regime facilitated the type of relationship the government was seeking with India.

Parliamentarians in both Houses have sought to scrutinise the changing world in which Britain is seeking to strengthen relations outside the EU. In May, the House of Lords committee on International Relations held an evidence session on relations with India, as part of an inquiry into UK foreign policy in changed world conditions.

Earlier this month, Britain’s former High Commissioner to India Sir Richard Stagg, told a meeting of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group, that a “lack of trust” permeated bilateral relations, warning that Britain did not have a strategy, but an approach based on “random” and “inevitably ineffective” interventions by members of the government. Alongside the visa issues, he pointed to Indian concerns around Britain’s Pakistan policy, and concerns in India that Britain was not doing enough to facilitate the return of those India sought to extradite, including high net worth individuals.

Earlier this year, in a dig at British authorities, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that Modi had told Prime Minister Theresa May that British courts oughtn’t to lecture India on prison conditions on the side lines of the Commonwealth summit. India also pulled out of signing an MoU on the return of illegal migrants because of the 15-day period that would have been stipulated in the agreement for documents to be verified, which India viewed as unrealistic.

Student visa

Britain’s Trade Secretary Liam Fox then linked the decision not to include Indian students in a relaxation of visa requirements to the non-signing of the MoU and the issue of Indians overstaying their visa. While India has acknowledged that there are overstayers, they have long contested the scale of the problem. “I am sure there are many [overstayers] but where did this figure of 100,000 come from?,” asked Indian High Commissioner YK Sinha in June.

Published on July 30, 2018

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