U.K. Deputy Foreign Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad said the changes in U.K. visa rules would not impact Indian undergraduate students. Lord Ahmad added that the U.K. government has benefitted from Indian students, and current visa rules are only for students in research and doctoral studies courses who sometimes don’t complete their courses.
Lord Ahmad told NDTV: “Those students who come for undergraduate studies and research will always be welcomed”. The minister further stated that Britain only wants to stop illegal immigration while adding the U.K. wants more students from India.
During his ongoing visit, the U.K. minister cleared the air about the changes the U.K.’s Visa policy witnessed. He said that the visa changes are primarily targeted at those students who come under the guise of pursuing research and doctoral studies but don’t even finish their education.
The U.K. Visa Policy and its Impact on International Students
It is for those who use student visas as a backdoor entry into the country to avail of job opportunities there. He also specified that the policy, in no way, shape or form, impacts undergraduate students. He mentioned that the U.K. will always welcome students.
Lord Tariq Ahmad’s parents were immigrants to the U.K. from Pakistan, and he said that being in India meant a lot to him since his ancestors had links to one of the royal families in Rajasthan. He will also visit Hyderabad to look into some startups and tech developments.
Recently, the U.K. announced that to reduce the number of migrants in the U.K., it will no longer allow certain students to bring their families on dependent visas. This means that Indians will no longer be able to use student visas as a backdoor entry to availing jobs in the country.
However, students who are in undergraduate programs and those who are well into their doctoral studies will not be impacted by this policy. The idea is to inhibit those elements who don’t even complete their studies and use it merely as an excuse for entry into the country.
It has been a few months after this important highway connecting Manali in Himachal Pradesh with Leh was closed to the public and visitors. Resuming transportation is a massive decision as this 427 km highway is a significant highway connecting Ladakh to different parts of India. According to a detail by Outlook India, the road was only open for necessary times. And now, after a pause of a long time, the highway is available for all. The Border Roads Organisation approved reopening the road on May 22, 2023. The Border Roads Organisation nodded yes to the road in 138 days.
Lord Tariq Ahmad’s Response to Criticisms
Mr Ahmad, who visited India in different capacities in the past, was last in Delhi in 2021 to discuss cooperation on climate change. However, a planned visit to India in June 2022 was deferred at the last minute, reportedly due to concerns by the Ministry of External Affairs that he would, in his previous capacity as Minister for Human Rights, raise issues over religious freedom in India ahead of a Ministerial conference in the U.K. on the Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB).
On this visit, however, Mr Ahmad, who is the U.K. Minister of State for the Middle East, South Asia, United Nations and Prime Minister Sunak’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, is expected to focus on “strengthening science, research and innovation links”, and will discuss India’s G-20 agenda ahead of the summit in September, which Mr Sunak will attend.
Sources said the U.K. is also exploring possibilities for a separate stand-alone bilateral visit by Mr Sunak this year, especially as both countries seek to seal a free trade agreement (FTA).
While in Jodhpur, Mr Ahmad will visit the Mehrangarh fort and places with ancestral links, officials said, as his mother was born in Jodhpur, while his father was born in Gurdaspur, Punjab. In Delhi, he will meet with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, and G-20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant in what will be seen as an opportunity to discuss bilateral issues and smooth over ties.
The violence at the Indian High Commission in London on March 19, where pro-Khalistan separatist protesters broke windows and forcibly removed the Tricolour, led to outrage in New Delhi. The Ministry of External Affairs had then issued a formal demarche accusing the U.K. of not providing the mission adequate security despite repeated requests, and the National Investigation Agency opened its inquiry into the incident. In what was seen as a retaliatory gesture, the police in Delhi also withdrew security barricades outside the British High Commission.