New Delhi: The UK’s decision to keep India out of the revised list of countries eligible for easier student visas while failing to extradite fugitives may cast a shadow on bilateral ties with Delhi likely to engage further with continental Europe on the issue of migration.
The UK government’s decision on Indian student visas will be a loss to Britain as other countries in the European Union will gain the best of the Indian talent, indicated persons familiar with the process.
During his visit to the UK in April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not sign a memorandum of understanding on the return of illegal Indian immigrants in a last-minute decision linked to London refusing to provide Indians relaxed visa norms already available to the Chinese.
“The UK, it appears, is favourable to the most wanted. Its visa policy is reflective of its inverted priorities,” said one of the persons quoted above. The UK has so far extradited only one of the 28 fugitives whose extradition India has sought.
Karan Bilimoria, founding chairman of the UK Council for International Students, said he was shocked at the exclusion of India from the list of countries whose students would benefit from a streamlined British visa process. The list is part of UK Home Office’s new immigration measures announced last Friday.
“I was shocked to see that India was not included in this list of countries – I consider this another kick in the teeth for India. The timing of this announcement by the British government is absolutely astonishing given next week is UK India Week,” Bilimoria said in response to questions from ET on email.
In view of talks between India and the UK on a post-Brexit free trade agreement, Bilimoria said the decision on student visas was “a short-sighted approach”.
He also said the UK government needed to reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa to enable international students to work in the UK after graduating to earn money to pay for their education and gain experience.
While the number of Indian students in the UK has more than halved in the past six years to 16,000, there are now 100,000 Indian students in Canada.
Adarsh Khandelwal, co-founder of Collegify, an overseas education consultancy, said easing of tier 4 student visa norms for students from some countries such as China and Thailand will create negative sentiments in the minds of Indian students planning on studying in the UK.
Adrij Chakraborty, who recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh and works as a parliamentary intern in New Delhi, said excluding India from the list of countries for which the UK will have relaxed student visa regulations, is an insult to the large number of prospective Indian applicants to British universities.
“Excluding India from this list citing high risk damages India’s reputation as a global contributor in education and innovation. This discomfort between the two countries might cause a sharp decline in student application to British universities from India. Students from India may now consider more welcoming countries such as Australia and continental Europe,” Chakraborty said.