by Amit Roy
BRITAIN AND INDIA TACKLING VISA ‘OVERSTAYERS’ POLICY
AS PREDICTED in Eastern Eye last week, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi gave his full backing to Prince Charles when Commonwealth leaders met in Windsor last Friday (20) to discuss the sensitive question of whether he should succeed the Queen as the head of the 53-member organisation.
Partly as a result of strong backing from India, by far the biggest of the Commonwealth countries, the communiqué issued at the end of the summit confirmed: “The next head of the Commonwealth shall be His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.”
Charles is the right man for the job. His support may be needed to ensure that what happened to West Indians over the Windrush scandal is not repeated with Indian “overstayers”.
That 63-year-old Albert Thompson (not his real name) was denied NHS treatment for prostate cancer despite having lived in the UK for 44 years is so uncharacteristic of the civilised Britain that we know. In marked contrast, no expense has been spared in looking after Russians Sergei and Yulia Skripal – though, admittedly, their case is different. But then this is politics.
The British and Indian governments are in the early stages of implementing a memorandum of understanding on the return of Indian “overstayers”. The UK’s claim that 100,000 students a year were overstaying their visas proved bogus. Its own inquiry showed 97 per cent were returning home, with Indian students registering the highest level of returns.
Prime minister Theresa May once said memorably that she did not wish the Conservatives to be seen as the “nasty party”. Sadly, Windrush indicates she has not been entirely successful.
Charles is not a politician, but perhaps the royal family can help in dispelling the “hostile environment” the government has sought to create for some black immigrants.
Indians could soon be targeted for not possessing “proper documents”.
The news that Charles would succeed the Queen as the next head of the Commonwealth was announced by the British prime minister at the final press conference at Marlborough House: “His Royal Highness has been a proud supporter of the Commonwealth for more than four decades and has spoken passionately about the organisation’s unique diversity.”
On the previous day, the Queen had made an extraordinary personal appeal to the Commonwealth leaders who hold her in high regard: “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day The Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”
The Queen may be a monarch, but she is also a mother.
Charles also emphasised his credentials for the job: “For my part, the Commonwealth has been a fundamental feature of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with my first visit to Malta when I was just five years old.”
During his Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath programme in London last Wednesday (18), Modi indicated he was touched that the Queen had written personally to him – and Charles had travelled to Delhi with a similar request that he attend CHOGM.
After Modi and Charles toured the Illuminating India exhibition at the Science Museum last Wednesday (18), the institution’s director, Ian Blatchford, said: “I was very struck by the strong personal chemistry between the prime minister and Prince Charles actually. They were having a great time going round the exhibition together.”