Visa bonds a blow to ‘special relationship’ with India

Cameron should think carefully before he progresses with this scheme, which has been greeted with anger and disbelief by the very people the PM has tried to woo

Share
Related Topics

There’s been an angry backlash to plans announced by the British government to introduce £3,000 bonds for visitors from six countries which are deemed to be “high-risk”.

And rightly so. The plan is offensive, counter-productive and unlikely to achieve its aim. The Government says it is still working out the details of a pilot scheme to be introduced but they should simply bury the idea and move on.

In the summer of 2010, on what was his first major foreign trip, David Cameron came to India with a six-strong team of ministers looking to boost bilateral trade and hoping for Indian investment in the UK. Britain and India, he has repeatedly said, are a natural fit to work together.

Cameron returned in February with a delegation of more than 100 British business representatives and educationalists, again calling for a special partnership and insisting to his rather unimpressed hosts that the “future of our two countries should be inextricably linked”.

It remains unclear how much business was actually done on the trip, but it did result in a commitment from the UK to providing same day business visas for Indians (which had been long demanded) and a promise that access for students would continue and even increase.

All of which made last week’s announcement by the government that India was to be included along with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana and Sri Lanka as countries whose citizens could be asked to pay a £3,000 cash bond, all the more remarkable and clumsy.

All week, Indian friends and acquaintances have been asking me: “What sort of message is he trying to send?” Or, in the (paraphrased) words of one forthright Indian television news anchor, it seems that Britain wants India’s money “but it doesn’t want the Indians”. India’s commerce minister Anand Sharma lodged a complaint when he met Vince Cable in London.

Firstly, what the scheme is not: it is not a plan to make everyone from these six countries pay a bond. Rather, I am told by a British official, the only "high risk" citizens from these six countries will be asked to pay.

The official said that in 2012, 88 per cent of the total 370,000 Indians who applied for a UK visa received one. (Of this total figure, the number for business visas was even higher, closer to 97 per cent, while student visas were a little lower, around 80 per cent.) The official said they did not expect this to change.

But as with so much else, the small print of the details can get lost if the larger “optics” are wrong. Indians I spoke to said they felt insulted by the message the UK appeared to be giving. They especially did not like being placed in the same category as Pakistanis, their historic foe, and Nigerians, towards whom a number of Indians perhaps hold racist attitudes.

(Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ghana and Sri Lanka have also condemned the scheme.)

Yet perhaps the point that was made most often was that nobody believes the bond scheme will work. Rather, “high-risk” individuals will simply factor in the additional £3,000 and see the bond as an open invitation from Theresa May, the home secretary. “Do you think that’s going to put them off?” said one friend. “That’s like giving people a green light.”

The coalition government’s Liberal partners have insisted that the proposed pilot scheme is just that, and that nothing has been fixed in stone. It is also very hard to determine to what extent the government is acting to deal with a genuine problem and to what extent the announcement is been driven by domestic politics and the threat it feels from parties such as UKIP.

I say, do away the bond, but if the government is adamant about having it, here’s one possible solution to defusing the row – scrap the six high-risk country category and extend the scheme to all nations. That is, if a visitor to the UK is deemed to be high risk, than ask for a bond, regardless of whether they are from Canada, the US, Russia or indeed India or Nigeria. That way, everyone is treated the same and no-one is put in a special category

Whether it will deal with over-stay is unclear. But perhaps it would at least stop insulting hundreds of millions of people with whom you claim to be trying build a special relationship.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower