Business, defence deals top British PM’s ’special’ visit to India

Monday, July 26, 2010

LONDON/NEW DELHI - India and Britain are set to infuse new energy in their relationship when British Prime Minister David Cameron comes to the country on his maiden visit Tuesday which could have a 500 million pounds deal for 60 Hawk jets and expanded business ties as its highlights.

In a visit aimed at forging a “special relationship” with India, which Britain sees as a rising global power, Cameron touches down in Bangalore Tuesday night with the biggest ever delegation of ministers and business honchos before holding official talks in the Indian capital Thursday.

The prime minister would also be accompanied by a delegation including CEOs of leading business houses, vice chancellors of reputed universities, other dignitaries and senior officials, India’s external affairs ministry said here while announcing the visit.

Cameron has had to charter an aircraft to accommodate seven cabinet colleagues and over 50 top honchos of the banking, industrial, services and education sectors.

Senior ministers accompanying Cameron include Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vincent Cable, and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt. National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts is also part of the delegation.

In Bangalore, Cameron will visit India’s IT bellwether Infosys Technologies Ltd and defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) during his day-long visit to the tech hub Wednesday. He will call on Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj before visiting the Infosys campus in the electronic city, about 30km away.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold talks with his British counterpart in New Delhi Thursday on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues. The accent will be on giving a fresh push to trade and investment between the two countries. Expanded collaboration in education and high technologies will also figure in the discussions.

Regional issues like the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and reforms of international financial institutions will also figure in the talks.

India will raise the issue of the British government’s cap on non-EU immigration of skilled labour which could come in the way of ambitions to energise business ties.

A 500 million pounds arms deal to sell an additional 60 Hawk jets to India may be clinched during the visit, sources said.

Taking business ties to another level will be the focus of the visit. The heavyweights of British finance and industry arriving with Cameron include Richard Lambert, director general, Confederation of British Industry; Xavier Rolet, Chief Executive, London Stock Exchange; Miles Cowdry, Director of Global Corporate Development, Rolls Royce; and Peter Sands, Group Chief Executive, Standard Chartered.

The British media has described Cameron’s India visit as a test of pragmatism and observed that Britain needs India more.

The dailies acknowledge India as a rising global economic power, advising the British delegation that Britain needs a “special relationship” with the country more than India does.

The Times wrote in a leader titled “India Rising” that “Cameron’s trip underlines a shift in global economic power. Greater commercial ties and support for a nation threatened by terrorism are in the UK’s interest”.

Its message to Cameron is: “British governments with an instinct to offer unsolicited advice have sometimes aggravated tensions in the Indian sub-continent. Mr. Cameron should stick to a clear message in his talks with (Indian Prime Minister) Dr (Manmohan) Singh.

“Both countries have suffered from attacks by Islamist terrorists. India’s status as a democracy embodying ethnic and religious pluralism would make it a natural ally for the UK, regardless of historical, literary and economic links. India is a crucial regional actor and an emerging power. Most of all, it must be a force for modernity,” the newspaper maintained.

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