British Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to visit India on the way to or from the G20 summit in Australia in November in what will be his record fourth visit to the country since his government assumed office in May 2010.
The G20 summit is scheduled to be held in Brisbane on November 15 and 16. Diplomatic sources told HT that preparatory work has begun for the India visit, but it was yet to be finalised whether he would touch down in New Delhi on the way or on his return journey from Brisbane.
Soon after forming the government in May 2010, Cameron had committed his coalition government with Liberal Democrats to forge a 'new special relationship' with India, and followed it up with three visits to India as Britain grappled with an ailing economy.
He visited India in July 2010, and in February and November of 2013. His likely fourth visit will be a record of sorts for the number of times any British prime minister visits India during one term in office. The next general elections in Britain are due in May 2015.
Compared to Britain’s many prime ministerial and other ministerial visits in recent years, it has been noted in diplomatic circles here that the Indian side has not been as forthcoming, particularly when a Joint Declaration signed in September 2004 envisaged annual summits.
The situation has been described as ‘largely one-way traffic’, with visiting British representatives focussing on increasing trade with India as part of efforts to deal with a difficult economic situation at home, while an India with a reset world-view focusses on countries like Japan.
The last bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister (Manmohan Singh) was in October 2006.
Singh passed through London on way to New York in September 2004. His three visits were in July 2005 for the Gleaneagles Summit (in the shadow of the 7 July London bombings), in October 2006 (on a visit to the UK and Finland) and in March 2009 (for the G20 Summit).
There have already been two high-level ministerial visits to India after the Narendra Modi government took over: the first by chancellor George Osborne and (now former) foreign secretary William Hague in July, and the latest one led by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in August.
The first minister in the Modi government to visit London is likely to be external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who is expected here for the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in October.