Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to industry leaders in India and United Kingdom to take forward reforms on contentious issues including reforms of the financial sector but pointed to the absence of political consensus back home that was coming in the way.
Singh told chief executive officers of leading Indian and British companies at a question and answer session towards the end of the third UK-India Business Summit that he could not, however, report that he had succeeded so far.
Singh had met leaders of Left parties two days before leaving for his six-day Europe trip and indicated that he expected demands of liberalisation to come up at the summit.
"Our government would like to see a further liberalisation of trade in services, including financial and legal services. I am aware that there is great interest in Britain in our financial sector," he told them.
Greater liberalisation of India's financial sector, especially banking and insurance, has been a long-standing demand of US and the European countries, but resisted by the communist parties that support the UPA coalition in New Delhi.
Singh said, "I do believe we need to promote a widely held pension fund system. We need a much larger insurance sector, with a higher capital base with more diverse products. He also told the industry leaders that a group of ministers was to go into the issue of spectrum allocation in the telecom sector that had been raised by the CEOs.
CII president R Seshasayee later said there was total alignment of views between British and Indian businesses and the political leadership and consensus on the issues that need to be addressed to increase bilateral trade and investments. "However, there are political realities in both countries which need to be tackled...But the solutions are known and political leadership is in agreement to get these solutions."
The prime minister also sought to address concerns that India was lagging behind in data protection laws and protection of intellectual property rights.
"I want to assure investors here that India adheres to all international codes and regulations pertaining to safety and protection of investment and intellectual property," he said.
"We also have in place excellent standards for data protection but are willing to learn from our friends in UK on what more can be done."