Sushma Swaraj stopped Narendra Modi from signing pact with UK on return of illegal immigrants: All you need to know

FP Staff
Sushma Swaraj and her ministry had stopped Narendra Modi as they disagreed with the provisions of the MoU on illegal immigrants.

A minister from the United Kingdom has raised her country's concerns about India's clear reluctance to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with London over the return of illegal Indian immigrants in the UK. On Monday, Minister of State for Counter-terrorism Baroness Williams of Trafford (Susan Williams) is believed to have discussed the matter with Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, urging him to ratify the deal posthaste.

This MoU has been running into roadblocks since January, when Rijiju signed the draft treaty in London. The agreement is aimed at streamlining the return of undocumented Indian immigrants in the UK. "The agreement paves the way for a quicker and more efficient process for documenting and returning Indian nationals who are in the UK illegally," the British Home Office had said in May, weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled trip to London, "We look forward to further discussions with the government of India on this MoU and hope that it will be ratified and implemented soon."

It has come to light that it was Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj's intervention in April that delayed the pact on the deportation of illegal Indian immigrants. Modi was expected to sign the deal during his 18 to 19 April visit to the UK, but it is clearly missing from the list of agreements he signed during his visit.

Although the Union Cabinet had approved the agreement in April before Modi's trip, Swaraj and her ministry were reportedly dissatisfied with the provisions of the MoU and intervened at the last minute. Ministry officials and Indian agencies had raised objections as they were not consulted before the deal was finalised, according to reports.

Tensions between India and the UK have been high because of uncertainty over this deal. London has been pushing to have it formalised at the earliest, emphasising that there was an urgent need to deport the nearly 40,000 illegal Indian immigrants in different parts of Europe.

India is believed to have disagreed with the UK's claim of the number of undocumented Indian immigrants in the country. An official explained that they had found several cases where the people deported from the UK were Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Afghans or Sri Lankans. Officials also did not agree with with the 15-day deadline to verify the documents of suspected illegal immigrants.

On Monday, Rijiju assured the UK minister that India will examine the terms and conditions in the MoU again, and Indian agencies will come up with a suitable deadline. The draft deal Rijiju had signed during his visit to London in January had mentioned a deadline of 70 days to verify the nationality of undocumented immigrants.

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