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150-member British business delegation in India

The delegation is scheduled to take part in the Partnership Summit of the Confederation of Indian Industry in Bangalore.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2007 18:03 IST

A 150-member strong British business delegation led by Cobra Beer's Lord Karan Bilimoria is accompanying Secretary of State Alistair Darling on a week-long India visit to push trade and economic ties between the two countries.

Apart from meetings with top economic ministers and officials in the national capital, the delegation is scheduled to take part in the Partnership Summit of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in Bangalore on Wednesday, officials said.

They will be joined by Chancellor of Exchequer Gordon Brown at the Bangalore summit and then proceed to India's commercial capital Mumbai the next day for meetings with representatives of top banks and financial institutions.

"The fact that both Brown, who is being talked about as our next prime minister, and Darling, our future chancellor of exchequer, perhaps, would be in India at the same time shows the growing interest Britain has in India," Bilimoria said.

"It is also a matter of pride that this delegation is the largest ever Britain is sending to India and I wouldn't be surprised if it is also our largest ever to any country," Bilimoria said.

During their engagements on Monday, the delegation met Minister of State for Industry Ashwani Kumar and raised the issue of opening up of India's financial sector to foreign investment.

"Since India needs $350 billion investment in infrastructure alone over the next five years, it is crucial to open up the banking industry and also allow foreign lawyers and accountants to practise in India," said Bilimoria.

The delegation also raised the issue of opening up of the retail trade sector, where India currently permits up to 51 per cent foreign equity in single-brand stores.

"We have been saying at our meetings that the opening up of retail trade would help in establishing a chain between farmers and consumers - from infrastructure to storage - and help India reduce wastage of food produce which, I am told, is as much as 40 per cent," Bilimoria added.

Meetings of the Indo-British Partnership Network, co-chaired by Bilimoria and Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Group, have also been organised at the national capital.

The delegation is scheduled to meet Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

At the Partnership Summit, the British delegation will get a chance to interact with some 2,000 delegates and 25 ministers from India and abroad over 20 networking luncheon sessions and three dinners, officials said.

The British delegation includes representatives of companies such as Virgin Atlantic, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, London Stock Exchange, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and the Commonwealth Business Council.