The UK is wise to abandon the visa bond scheme. Such steps run counter to the spirit of the times.
The proposal piloted by UK Home Secretary Theresa May to inflict a 3,000-pound (almost Rs 3 lakh) bond on visitors from high risk countries including India,Pakistan and Bangladesh has got its just deserts. Following Lib Dem resistance,it is the second anti-immigrant step of David Camerons coalition government to come a cropper in the face of mounting outrage and disgust. A proposal to send vans into immigrant-dominated areas bearing messages urging illegal aliens to get out or face arrest was nixed earlier. Even within Britain,these were regarded as half-witted ripostes to the Independence Party,which had made its presence felt in the last elections with a strong anti-immigrant position. Internationally,the response was even sharper.
Recent polls suggest that up to six out of 10 British voters are fearful about immigration. However,equally credible polls suggest that just as many think multiculturalism creates national value. Perhaps this confusion means that Britain is still coming to terms with the multicultural legacy of New Labour,and that the issue will recede over time. While it is a political factor,of course,parties and governments must react to it. But it is not very smart to promote measures that indiscriminately address legitimate visitors and immigrants from particular countries as well as illegal aliens. It looks like discrimination and besides,the British economy benefits considerably from tourism,shopping and investment conducted by high net worth individuals from precisely these countries. India is one of the UKs biggest trading partners,for instance,and has given London an earful on the matter. Interestingly,Harrods has been complaining just as loudly.
Being unfair,complicating trade relations and harming the high street,such steps run counter to the spirit of the times. We already live in Salman Rushdies chutnified age,in which mixed-up is lip-smacking and monocultural tastes like old cardboard. Ideas and skills are the new capital and the quick way for nations to get an edge is to welcome them across borders. It is time to favour the mobility of labour,the one international flow which failed to be accelerated by globalisation. Parties and governments must use their imagination and find ways to reassure or coopt domestic constituencies that feel threatened by the mass transit of people across borders. Because it is routine today and may deliver great value tomorrow.