India happy at Britain scrapping visa bond scheme

As British Prime Minister David Cameron clarified that the now-scrapped 3,000-pound visa bond scheme was never targeted at India, the Indian government Tuesday said it was happy the British government has taken on board its concerns.

“It was never targeted at India. It was an idea suggested within government but we decided not to go ahead with the idea,” Cameron said in London, ahead of his visit to India Nov 14.

The British government scrapped the controversial scheme that was aimed at restricting visitors from some “high-risk” countries – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria.

The scheme, scrapped Sunday, required people from “high-risk” countries to pay the 3,000 pound deposit for a six-month visa.

India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said India “responded promptly” after media reports appeared on the issue by raising the matter with the British government.

He said India’s views on the subject were conveyed to Britain at different levels, including by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma during his June visit to London.

The issue also figured during the India-Britain Comprehensive Dialogue on visa related issues held in London in July, the spokesperson said.

“We are happy to learn that the UK government has taken on board our concerns as well as concerns expressed by other quarters,” he said.

“Britain and India have a strategic partnership. People-to-people contacts provide strength and durability to our long-standing warm and friendly ties with Britain,” he said.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) had termed the plan as “highly discriminatory and very unfortunate”.

The scheme was part of the British government’s drive to cut net migration into Britain to “tens of thousands” each year by the time of the next general election in 2015 from the more than 200,000 annually in recent years.