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UK arrests have Asian students worried

world Updated: Apr 13, 2009 01:17 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times
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Has the shutter come down for Asian students, particularly Indians, who are interested in studying in Britain? Following the detention of 10 Pakistanis on student visas for allegedly plotting to blow up crowded shopping centres in Manchester, the concern is gripping Indian students.

Almost 20,000 Indians got admissions in 2008. Many are expected to seek admission for 2009. So far Indians found it much easier and quicker to get the entry permission. Of £2.5 billion contribution made by international students to the UK economy as tuition fees, Indian students comprise 10 per cent of the foreign student market — second only to the Chinese.

“But this latest development could mean strict vetting, both time-consuming and irksome, for even Indian applicants,” said Lord Megnad Desai, a professor emeritus at London School of Economics. “The infiltration into India from Bangladesh is widely known. There is also now suspicion (after Mumbai carnage) that there is a radicalised element in the country.”

Desai said it will be more complex for Pakistanis. “I have had academically excellent, well-behaved Pakistani students in my classes. They were not interested in anything but their studies. Yet any Pakistani student applicant would now be micro-scrutinised,” he said.

Referring to three Indian-origin men involved in the failed attempts to blow up a night club in London and bomb airport in Glasgow, a diplomat said: “It is unfortunate but stricter rules were being made for some time to vet student visa applications.

“Now they will be adhered to the letter and spirit even for non-Pakistani students.” It would be more difficult for Pakistani applicants, he added.

Anatol Lieven, professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College went further. “We might have to restrict students from Pakistan… I say with regret as a professor with valued Pakistani students—(but) 42,000 students from Pakistan in four years may be too many for anyone to check properly.”

It may take more time and more checks, but Indian students will be welcome here, like the Chinese.