Cameron leads Britain’s open offer to partner India Inc

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) Saying he sought the ‘brightest and best from India’, Prime Minister David Cameron Thursday led a renewed British drive to ride the Indian economic growth with a series of multi-million pound deals across all major areas of industry.

In several events coinciding with his two-day visit, some of them attended by British Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable, the mandate was clear: How to make Britain figure among India’s to five trading partners again.

Cameron, who in Bangalore Wednesday had pushed for ‘stronger, deeper, wider’ ties with India, himself led the hard-sell by seeking to allay apprehensions of India Inc over the proposal to impose a cap on immigration of professionals from non-EU member countries.

‘It is wrong to say we can’t have at one and the same time a sensible and controlled immigration and dynamic and fully open economy,’ the visiting prime minister told a India-UK Business Roundtable, also attended by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

‘What we want is the brightest and best from India and elsewhere. That just means having a proper system in place.’

During the visit a number of deals were also signed by private companies of the two sides in areas including defence, architecture, infrastructure, high-technology, communications and information technology and outsourcing.

‘India is a country where you don’t have to be a multinational to succeed. We’ve superb UK companies operating here in partnership with Indian firms and I would encourage more UK firms to explore the opportunities here,’ Cable told reporters at an event.

He announced that British architecture firm Benoy will develop infrastructure projects in India, PicoChip will provide technology for telecom networks, while BAE and Griffon Hovercraft will collaborate with Indian firms in the defence and security sectors.

Along with India’s Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath, Cable also launched the 100,000th excavator made in the country by Britain’s J.C. Bamford, popularly called JCB, even as BAE signed a $1 billion pact with the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics.

The British side recollected that their country was was the fifth largest exporter to India as recently as in 2005. Now, it’s share has dropped to 18th position with the value of merchandise falling from $6.5 billion in 2008 to $4.5 billion last year.

Kamal Nath, who was India’s commerce minister in the previous government, also said the scope for ties was immense. ‘I remember the visit of then Prime Minister John Major. After 17 years, we have to yet fully realise our bilateral economic potential.’

Among the other deals announced by Cable, Griffon Hoverwork will sell hovercraft worth nearly $50 million to the Indian Coastguard, while Xchanging has inked a pact with the Karnataka government for a 2,000-seat outsourcing centre in the state.

‘As India develops its infrastructure, the potential for further co-operation between India and Britain is, indeed, enormous,’ the business secretary told reporters during the event at British High Commissioner Richard Stagg’s official residence.

Treasury chief Osborne, who in Mumbai Wednesday had announced the permission to British companies to participate in India’s civil nuclear sector, also had a packed itinerary, during which he met with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

‘Today’s dialogue reaffirmed the continued strength of UK-India economic and financial relationship,’ Osborne and Mukherjee said in a joint statement, after their meeting at North Block, which houses the finance ministry.

‘We agreed on the importance of our two governments working together to boost business opportunities between the UK and India, including actions that both governments could take to support our growing trade and investment links.’

Among the others who accompanied Cameron to India are Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt, Minister of State for Energy Gregory Barker, and Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts.

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