Millennium Post

First begging bowl, then a whiplash

It is fascinating to observe the changing dynamics that are played out in the United Kingdom’s dealings with its larger ‘commonwealth’, particularly India. Barely four months after the British Prime Minister David Cameron made a theatrical touch down on Indian soil, offering prayers at Jalianwala Bagh memorial, and essentially lobbying for the India-EU Free Trade Agreement that has been in the pipeline for five years now, the UK retorts with an affront that bespeaks the hypocrisy of the one-time colonial superpower. The latest missive from London is about a security deposit of 3,000 GBP (roughly Rs 2.7 lakh) that the visitors from India, as well as from countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Ghana, will have to pay upfront from November this year in order to cross into the UK border. The convoluted and highly flawed logic that the UK home secretary Theresa May has offered to shore up this draconian measure is that the countries, including India, are a source of ‘high risk’ visitors, who ritually overstay their (paid, government-stamped) welcome, and therefore, the escalation in the security bond would act like a deterrent, discouraging the temporary immigrants to stay on illegally, as the money would be forfeited in case of overstay. Unabashedly, the UK has compared its utterly ludicrous proposal to those prevalent in Australia and New Zealand, but has conveniently forgotten that India is the fifth largest investor in their own country, and sends about five lakh tourists every year to prop up the sagging, recession-hit tourism industry in Britain.

The UK’s volte-face when it comes to its diplomacy with India must not come as a rude shock to Indians, given Britain’s deep-seated prejudices and the later day complexes against India’s growing economic muscle, which, much to our consternation, New Delhi fails to effectively exercise to counter the onslaughts, symbolic and otherwise, almost regularly. For example, during David Cameron’s high profile and overhyped visit in February this year, the British Prime Minister not only pushed for the controversial India-EU FTA, which would principally translate into an India-UK deal, as most of the transactions and companies to which India has been sending its cheap labour, happen to be in UK, particularly the feverishly outsourcing banking and investment companies in London’s busy financial district. This, however, meant that the Indian market would be flooded with European and British manufactured products, even in low-end sectors, with consequent transfer of skilled paying jobs from UK and European citizens to their cheaply available Indian counterparts, resulting in upping the job crisis in the countries further. In a double whammy of sort, while Cameron-led Tory government is trying to put across a tough, anti-immigrant stance by resorting to slipshod tactics that are intended to look like their coming down hard on immigration per se, and not just illegal immigration, it is also trying to bolster its fading prospects in the British political horizon, with the virulently anti-immigrant UK Independent Party making significant inroads among the conservative hardline, white supremacist groups. The Cameron government, in effect, is duping not only its own citizens as it tries to hoodwink them into thinking
otherwise, it is also casting a long shadow over the future of
Indo-British bilateral relationship.  

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