Tuesday, September 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Indo-UK pact on terrorism
Visa rules to be relaxed
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 4 — In a significant move, the United Kingdom and India today agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) to counter international terrorism and drug trafficking and share vital information of mutual interest.

An agreement to this effect was reached between the two sides at a 90-minute meeting between the visiting British Home Secretary, Mr Jack Straw, and the Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, here.

India agreed to send a delegation, comprising top Home Ministry officials, to the United Kingdom in October to work out the modalities for setting up the JWG with their counterparts.

The agreement to set up a JWG gains significance as the issue of international cross-border terrorism is likely to have greater focus in the forthcoming United Nations Millennium Meet.

“We have agreed to set up a JWG to deal with terrorism and drug trafficking and share information of currency and of interest to each other,” Mr Straw told reporters soon after the meeting.

The British Home Secretary pointed out that today’s agreement was in the wake of the suggestion made by Mr Advani during his visit to London in June.

“One of the suggestions made by Mr Advani during his June visit was to set up a JWG, a permanent machinery to counter international terrorism, drug trafficking and to exchange vital information of interest to both the countries....We have agreed to set up such a JWG,” Mr Straw said, adding, “Our officials will work out the details in due course.”

Mr Advani said the JWG would focus on issues of mutual interest, common concern, terrorism and drug trafficking.

“A group of Home Ministry officials will go to the United Kingdom in October to work out the modalities of the JWG,” he said.

Both Mr Straw and Mr Advani did not give any timeframe for the setting up of the JWG, but Home Ministry sources said the group was likely to be set up by year-end.

Mr Straw said he also explained to Mr Advani the changes and relaxations made by the United Kingdom in its visa rules for Indian entrepreneurs.

“We have decided on liberal visa rules for the Indian IT and e-commerce professionals visiting the United Kingdom. They will now be given visa without having to show their substantial worth,” he said.

Stating that the visas issued by the British High Commission and consulates in India is the highest as compared to other British visa centre across the world, he said, “Of the total Indian visa applications, in 90 per cent cases, visa is issued and in the 10 per cent (rejected) cases, the applicants have the right to appeal again.”

Asked whether he sought the release of British national Peter Bleach, undergoing sentence in Calcutta in the Purulia arms dropping case, Mr Straw said, “The issue was taken up at the meeting,” and added, “We have respect for the independence of the Indian judiciary”.

According to sources, Britain wants an early hearing of the convict’s appeal and serving of the rest of his sentence in the United Kingdom.

Asked whether India will make a request for the deportation of the hijacker, Mr Advani merely said, “We will be pursuing that.”

The British High Commissioner to India, Mr Bob Young, the Union Home Minister, Mr Kamal Pandey, the Special Secretary (Home), Mr M. B. Kaushal, and other top officials of the Home Ministry were present at the meeting.

Mr Straw will also visit Mumbai, Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Calcutta.

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