UK Seeks To Boost Investment In India

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Feb. 19 – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron is in India this week on a trade mission to beat the drums for stronger trade links between the two countries, and to advocate the UK as India’s “partner of choice”. Prime Minister Cameron stressed the opportunities that an emerging Indian economy presents for the UK.

“I want Britain and India to have a very special relationship. India’s rise is going to be one of the big phenomena of the century and it is incredibly impressive to see the vibrancy of your democracy, the great strength of the diversity of your country and the enormous power of your economy that is going to be one of the top three economies by 2030. That’s why I’m here. Britain wants to be your partner of choice.”

Bringing with him the largest trade delegation ever assembled by a British Prime Minister, several policy initiatives were announced that intend to facilitate the deepening of relations between the two countries. This included a relaxation of consular rules allowing “same day” visa processing for Indian businessmen, as well as increased cooperation in cyber-security through a joint dedicated task-force.

Prime Minister Cameron also pledged £1 million to facilitate the research of a Mumbai-Bangalore economic corridor (if provided a matching grant by the Indian government). Getting British businesses involved in this development was acknowledged as a priority by Prime Minister Cameron, who identified an economic corridor as a major source of future economic growth.

“It would unleash India’s potential along the 1,000 km from Mumbai to Bangalore, transforming lives and putting British businesses in prime position to secure commercial deals, ” he said.

The area is seen as having huge economic potential, estimated to contribute to 11.8 percent of India’s GDP growth by 2020, and generating investment projects worth $25 billion.

Prime Minister Cameron has also been keen to promote British businesses involvement in India’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) schemes. PPP-schemes allow foreign investors to participate in major infrastructure projects in partnership with the Indian government, in a process facilitated by significant tax breaks. As India is forecast to spend $1 trillion in the next five years on infrastructure, Prime Minister Cameron seeks to advantageously position British firms to win these contracts.

The Prime Minister also sought to ease concerns over his administration’s immigration policy, which, due to restrictive post-graduation employment visas, has been seen to discourage Indian students from applying to UK universities. He said there was no limit on the number of Indian students accepted at UK universities or the number of students able to work in the UK provided they achieve a graduate level position. He further stressed the importance of Indian students in facilitating bilateral relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Cameron also announced that several British firms will expand or develop their investments in India, with additional contracts expected to be signed during the trip. Companies represented in the delegation included the London Stock Exchange, BAE Systems, BP, De La Rue, Intercontinental Hotels, Tesco, Diageo, the British unit of EADS, HSBC, JCB, Lloyd’s, London Underground, Rolls-Royce and Standard Chartered. Representatives from British academia and art institutions also took part.

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