UK terror probe panel chief keen on learning from India

By Devirupa Mitra, IANS,

New Delhi : India has been asked to share “good practices” on counter-terrorism strategies as part of a UK parliamentary panel’s inquiry into the 2005 London subway bombing, says Keith Vaz, Indian-origin chair of the home affairs select committee.

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Vaz, who was in India for a short visit this week to meet Indian ministers and parliamentarians, had a meeting with Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

His visit comes only a few days after the home affairs select committee announced that it would conduct the largest ever inquiry into the 2005 subway bombing, commonly known as 7/7, which killed 52 people.

According to reports, the inquiry will call upon, among others, intelligence chiefs and police officials to testify before the British parliament panel on what happened during the bombing and its aftermath.

Vaz said he was aware that the Indian government had implemented a large number of changes in the police system after a series of terror attacks.

“I told him that you can share with us information and good practices… I would want officials who have been involved against bomb atrocities to tell us what they have been doing,” Vaz, a five-time elected Indian-origin Labour member of parliament, told IANS here.

The MP from Leicester East said he had met with several of his “old friends”, many of whom had become ministers and MPs. “There is such a good combination of youth and experience here. I truly believe that this will be a vintage government,” he said, referring to the new government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Recently, the home affairs select panel had criticised the UK government for allowing the entry of tens of thousands of immigrants into Britain by getting admission into “bogus colleges”.

“We were concerned after we saw that the number of students from Pakistan had increased from 7,000 to 28,000 in three years,” said Vaz, who was careful to underline that the issue was not a “Pakistani problem” alone.

He, however, noted that there was no such trend of a comparable increase of Indian students.

He believed that there were “hundreds of such colleges” that had cropped up in the UK in the last few years. Any clamping down was hampered by the fact that the majority of the inspections by authorities were scheduled ahead, so that there were no surprise visits.

The report had criticised the British government for not taking any measures to deal with the issue, despite earning warning about the problem of bogus colleges.

Vaz also said his committee was bringing out a report on the point-based immigration system, arguing for “flexibility” in certain sectors with shortage of skills, like catering.

“The immigration system needs to rely less on points and more on experience,” he said.

(Devirupa Mitra can be contacted at [email protected])