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No decision taken on visa bond scheme: UK Minister

Minister said CHOGM is an opportunity to discuss developments which affected member states.

Britain has not taken any decision on the controversial 3,000-pound visa bondscheme for Indiansvisiting the country which was scheduled to come into force this month,a senior UK minister has said.

Asked whether a final decision on the visa bond has been taken,Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire said: “no decision has been taken. Our relationship with India is extremely important”.

He also recalled the investments made by the Tatas and his own meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad sometime back.

“We are looking certainly at the Indian elections next year,” Swire,responsible for Commonwealth and India,said.

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A pilot version of the scheme was scheduled to go ahead this month and was expected to affect countries like India,Pakistan,Bangladesh,Sri Lanka,Nigeria and Ghana.

Talking about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo from November 15 to 27,Swire strongly defended the UK’s decision to attend the summit.

He said the UK delegation would be led by Prime Minister David Cameron.


The British government was going to Sri Lanka to support the Prince of Wales Prince Charles who will be representing the Queen,he said.

He underlined that the government saw the meeting as an opportunity for Commonwealth leaders to meet and discuss developments which affected all member countries.

“We will make the point that the meeting is about the Commonwealth and not just Sri Lanka,” Swire said.


Britain wished to discuss issues such as development in the post-2015 era,he said,adding that other topics would be raised on the margins of the summit,including worries about the disputed presidential election in the Maldives and Gambia’s decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth.

He said that UK’s presence at the CHOGM was not intended to bathe the Rajapaksa government in a golden light.

“We will raise our concern such as disappearances and other unacceptable things taking place in Sri Lanka,” he said.

He said the British Prime Minister will travel to the Tamil-dominated north during his visit. This would make him the first foreign head of government to visit the region since the bitter ethnic war ended in 2009.

The Sri Lankan government is facing charges of war crimes during the last stage of the conflict when the UN estimates up to 40,000 civilians might have been killed.


Britain would discuss progress which had been made such as the elections in the north and in mine-clearing but would also highlight concerns about disappearances and the suppression of media freedom and human rights.

Sri Lanka would be aware that the world’s eyes would be on it and would want to cast itself in a good light,he said.

First published on: 03-11-2013 at 14:27 IST
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