UK Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured) arrived in India with a massive trade delegation on Wednesday to push investment and jobs. BAE and Rolls-Royce used the first day to unveil a one billion dollar combined deal for trainer jets.
AFP - British Prime Minister David Cameron kicked off a much-hyped visit to India Wednesday, pitching for investment and open trade to boost Britain's fragile post-recession recovery.
In a trip seen as a test of Cameron's new focus on business in Britain's foreign policy, manufacturing groups BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce used the first day to unveil two defence deals worth a combined one billion dollars.
"I want this to be a relationship which drives economic growth upwards and drives our unemployment figures downwards," Cameron declared in a speech in the Indian IT hub of Bangalore.
"This is a trade mission, yes, but I prefer to see it as my jobs mission."
Accompanied by a bevy of top ministers and a small army of business leaders, Cameron arrived late Tuesday at the head of the largest British delegation to travel to the former jewel in its colonial crown in recent memory.
It has been tagged as a mould-breaking mission to redefine what Cameron's government sees as a long-neglected relationship with one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
The trip started in the southern city of Bangalore, where Cameron visited the country's second-largest software exporter Infosys and the state-run defence giant Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
In the first of a series of expected deals, BAE Systems said it had finalised the sale of 57 Hawk trainer jets to India -- to be built by HAL under licence -- in a deal worth 500 million pounds (779 million dollars).
Rolls Royce will provide the engines for the aircraft for another 200 million pounds.
India had ordered 66 of the Hawk jets in 2004 to train pilots for flying supersonic combat missions.
Cameron highlighted the recent investment in Britain made by Indian-run companies such as the car maker Tata and steel group Arcelor Mittal, but also pushed India to open up its tightly regulated domestic market.
"We want you to reduce the barriers to foreign investment in banking, insurance, defence manufacturing and legal services -- and reap the benefits," he said, adding that a new global free-trade deal was vital.
Since taking power in May, Cameron has said he wants British foreign policy to focus more on business in a bid to boost the economy as it emerges from recession facing deep budget cuts to combat record state debt.
Apart from a trip to war-torn Afghanistan last month, the visit is Cameron's first major foray to Asia. The choice reflects India's growing regional clout and its emergence as an investment destination to rival neighbouring China.
He came under fire back home, however, for his perceived humble approach that included a comment last week about London's "junior partner" status to the United States during World War II.
He wrote in India's The Hindu newspaper that he was in the country "with humility" and said Wednesday he accepted Britain was just one nation out of the "the whole world beating a path to (India's) door."
"I understand that Britain cannot rely on sentiment and shared history for a place in India's future," he added in Bangalore.
India was known as the "jewel in the crown" of the British empire until independence. Ties remain strong, with up to two million people of Indian origin living in Britain, its largest ethnic minority group.
In further comments likely to please his hosts, Cameron also backed New Delhi's bid for a seat in the UN Security Council and heaped praise on India's "wonderful history of democratic secularism."
Britain's finance minister on Wednesday pinpointed banking and financial services as key to deepened economic relations.
He said British banks could provide capital to India and banking services to its poor, while Indian banks were also welcome to follow the lead of State Bank of India and make London their European headquarters.
"This is precisely the kind of reciprocity our banking sectors need," he said during a visit to Mumbai, where he rang the opening bell at the Mumbai stock exchange.
Bilateral trade between India and Britain was worth 11.5 billion pounds (13.7 billion euros, 17.7 billion dollars) last year.
Date created : 2010-07-28