Pay up or shift, UK envoy told

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, May 7:

Pointing out that reciprocity is key to bilateral relations, the Indian government has renewed its demand that Britain pay rent for its envoy’s residence or move to alternative accommodation. “I am happy that the government has at last woken up. They should have done it long ago,” Kuldip Nayar, a former envoy to Britain, said commenting on the government’s decision. It was during Nayar’s tenure in London in 1990 that Britain decided to charge market rent for the Indian high commissioner’s residence at 9 Kensington Palace Gardens. The crown estate commissioners said India had to pay rent at commercial rate and demanded 20 million pounds.

After four years of negotiations between the two governments, the rent was mutually fixed 14 million pounds for a 65-year lease. New Delhi paid another four million pounds for renovation and certain alterations. Under the previous lease agreement, India was paying 525 pounds a month for the Victorian mansion, while Britain paid Rs 2,750 for its envoy’s sprawling residence at 2 Rajaji Marg in New Delhi. Since the lease of the British envoy’s residence had also expired in the meanwhile, the Indian government, invoking reciprocity in ties, slapped a 20 million pound rent for a 50-year lease for the residence. While the Indian government promptly paid the lease amount for its envoy’s residence, the British government is yet to pay up.

Officials said New Delhi had renewed its demand now and British High Commissioner Michael Arthur would have to move out if his government does not pay. British high commission officials were not immediately available for comment. Nayar said he had suggested that the two governments exchange the properties. “I almost got the deal through. I told them let’s exchange. We keep ours, you keep yours.”