Tuesday, February 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

UK move on visa draws flak
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 31 — India today strongly reacted to an official British proposal of taking cash bonds of 10,000 for visits to the UK from short-term visitors saying that “we reserve the right to take reciprocal action”.

The reaction was to the British proposal of a pilot scheme which is expected to be introduced later this year for Indian and Bangladeshi visitors.

In response to media reports on the requirements for short-term visitors to the UK, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, Mr R.S. Jassal, said while New Delhi was ascertaining facts on the issue, “we have not been extended the courtesy of being consulted”.

“It is our expectation that in consular matters any new rules or guidelines adopted by a country should be implemented across the board on a non-discriminatory basis for citizens of all countries”, the spokesman said.

It is discriminatory as India and Bangladesh were being used as “guinea pigs” and no self-respecting nation could accept this kind of treatment to its citizens, official sources said.

Earlier, the British High Commissioner, Mr Tom Macan, told newspersons that the proposed scheme would apply to a small minority of applicants for visas who, whilst satisfying the British visa-issuing officials on all other grounds, were unable to satisfy them that they intended to return to India at the end of their stay.

Under the scheme to be implemented in the second quarter of the year, if the visitor gets back within the stipulated visa period, the money would be returned, Mr Macan said. Otherwise, it would be forfeited, he pointed out.

Giving further clarifications on the scheme, the British Deputy High Commissioner said that no one who currently qualified for a visit to the UK would be required to post a cash-bond.

“The proposed bond of 10,000 should enable more people, not fewer, to visit the UK but it would not enable people to visit whose applications were unsatisfactory on other grounds”, he pointed out adding that the purpose of the scheme was to regulate the visa regime and not to discourage visitors.

Mr Macan said the British government had decided to consider the scheme following requests and suggestions by the Asian community in Britain.

The issue will come up for discussions during the four-day visit of the British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Keith Vaz commencing from tomorrow.

The British Deputy High Commissioner said Mr Vaz would also hold discussions with British High Commission officials on visa operations. He would also explore the possibility of extending visa issuing service in India. He would discuss ways to improve the service, particularly to applicants in regional areas, he said.

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