The UK government’s recent decision to restrict visa rights for overseas students bringing dependant family members to the country does not target undergraduate students from India, Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad, who is on a visit to India, said on Monday.
The Minister of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs said the British government recognises the valuable contributions of Indian students and that the visa restrictions primarily target those pursuing one year’s research and doctoral studies.
“Those students who come for undergraduate studies and research will always be welcomed,” Lord Ahmad told NDTV.
The minister said Britain has “tweaked” the visa rules specifically for research and PhD students who typically have a one-year duration and occasionally do not complete their research.
The minister said that Britain reaps the benefits of legal immigration and is solely focused on curbing illegal immigration. “Most students are from India. We want more students,” he was quoted as saying.
The minister also met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar earlier in the day. The security of India’s diplomatic missions in the UK, particularly in light of the incident in March when the Indian High Commission in London was vandalized by pro-Khalistan supporters, was tabled at the meeting, Jaishankar said.
“Met with UK MOS Lord Tariq Ahmad today in New Delhi… Underlined the obligation to ensure security of our diplomatic missions and prevent misuse of democratic freedoms,” the External Affairs Minister said in a tweet.
Met with UK MOS Lord @tariqahmadbt today in New Delhi. Discussed a broad range of issues, from FTA and South Asia to Indo-Pacific and G20.
Underlined the obligation to ensure security of our diplomatic missions and prevent misuse of democratic freedoms. pic.twitter.com/BuhrZ7zRp4
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) May 29, 2023
According to the government’s press release ahead of his four-day India visit, Ahmad will focus on technology and innovation projects.
“Building on the 2030 road map for India-U.K. future relations, we are deepening our collaboration on science and technology, bringing new innovations to both our nations,” Ahmad said, according to a release by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Saturday.
During the meeting, Jaishankar and the visiting minister discussed a wide range of topics, including the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), South Asia, Indo-Pacific, and the G20.
India and the UK have already conducted nine rounds of negotiations for the FTA. These negotiations began in January last year and aim to establish a comprehensive agreement that will significantly enhance the bilateral trade relationship, which was valued at approximately GBP 34 billion in 2022.
In a recent development, Harjinder Kang, Britain’s Chief Negotiator for the FTA, was appointed as the country’s new Trade Commissioner to South Asia and Deputy High Commissioner for Western India. He will be based in Mumbai.
Ahmad, who visited India in different capacities in the past, was last in Delhi in 2021, to discuss cooperation on climate change.
The four-day trip of the British minister began in Jodhpur on Saturday. Officials mentioned that he was scheduled to visit the Mehrangarh fort and other places with ancestral connections, as his mother was born in Jodhpur and his father was born in Gurdaspur, Punjab.
“It is challenging to express my emotions. Today, I am visiting this palace – my grandfather served as a treasurer in the court of Maharaja Umaid Singh. My father, Ahmed Khan, was a physician with ties to the royal court,” he shared.