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Theresa May went to India, and all I got was a lousy T-shirt…

November 10, 2016 11:34 AM
By Mark Valladares in Liberal Democrat Voice

I am one of those people who have often wondered why British governments pay relatively little attention to India. After all, it's a big country, with an emerging middle class who want to travel, buy luxury goods and send their children to good universities overseas. Why wouldn't we want to build stronger links with a Commonwealth country that is likely to be one of the world's largest economies before too long? And yet, the attention of our politicians and diplomats often seems biased towards China.

Frankly though, after Theresa May's trip to New Delhi and Bengaluru, I almost wish that she hadn't bothered. Yes, I acknowledge that she has a number of problems in attempting to build a stronger relationship with India - the fact that she is trying to implement a Brexit decision on the basis that migration was a key factor, whilst some Leave campaigners were claiming that Brexit would mean easier access for Indians (and others) wanting to visit family here, is a contradiction almost impossible to square. But she seems determined to reinforce the fears that many Indians have about Britain and its attitude towards them.

Continued downward pressure on the number of Indians allowed into Britain to study has led to a surge of young people travelling to the United States, Canada and Australia instead, denying our universities valuable revenue, and all because an unknown number overstay their visas. A concession allowing very wealthy Indians into the "GREAT Club", a VIP visa service aimed at those likely to be able to invest significant sums of money, is merely a pinprick in the numbers of those wanting to come to Britain, either on holiday or to visit family. There has been no movement on making it easier to get a British visa generally, and it is fearsomely difficult to get one at present.

Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, has made it clear that greater freedom of movement for Indians is a key part of any trade deal post-Brexit, and until Theresa 'gets it', there isn't likely to be a deal. Indian politicians won't easily forget that she has been one of the prime obstacles to a trade deal between the European Union and India, either.

Some of the supposedly free-trade, pro-Commonwealth Conservative MP's need to be challenging their leader to deliver upon some of the promises made by the Leave campaign. Daniel Hannan, who called for a level playing field for non-EU nationals, might like to campaign for just that. After all, he did try to persuade Asian voters that Brexit would lead to enhanced opportunities to come to Britain.

Or, more likely, it's just another broken promise, never likely to be redeemed.

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