Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked captains of industry in Britain and India to drive the bilateral economic partnership, a day after the two sides finalised deals worth £9.2 billion in key areas like energy and telecom.
Addressing the India-UK CEO Forum at Downing Street, Modi highlighted many opportunities for British companies to invest in India’s infrastructure, defence and railways sectors and assured them of personal attention for their projects.
India and Britain, he told the roundtable of business leaders, are “economically made for each other” in a relationship that should be driven by private sector CEOs. He particularly mentioned the potential for public-private partnerships to develop railway stations.
Pitching his “Make in India” campaign, Modi said the prime focus of this initiative is defence manufacturing, a sector in which he has eased foreign investment norms twice this year.
Recalling the economic reforms announced in New Delhi this week, he said his government is “confidently, consistently and ceaselessly” working to integrate India’s economy with the world. India can supply manpower to the world, he added.
Modi was flanked at the talks by Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry, the head the forum. Others included Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, Tata Consultancy Services CEO N Chandrasekaran and Bharat Forge chairman Baba Kalyani.
The event was also attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne. In his opening remarks, Cameron said India and Britain have the political will to take their existing economic relationship forward.
An official statement issued on Thursday night after talks between Modi and Cameron said they had “welcomed the first meeting of the reconstituted India-UK CEOs Forum”, which will be tasked with advising the Prime Ministers about trade and investment opportunities and challenges.
Modi stayed overnight at Chequers, the 16-century mansion in Buckinghamshire that is the British Prime Minister’s country retreat, and held “intensive” discussions with Cameron in the morning after a walk in the gardens of the residence. Gifts were exchanged by the two leaders, including books on the World War I.
Modi then went to the Buckingham Palace for a lunch with Queen Elizabeth – the first such appointment for any Indian Prime Minister. There were some protests outside the palace gates by climate change campaign group Avaaz.
Alaphia Zoyab from the group said: “The next few weeks at the G20 summit and during the Paris climate talks, the world’s eyes will be on the Indian Prime Minister. It’s a crucial international leadership test – the hope is he will push the rich world to take responsibility for the historical injustice of climate change while also grabbing the opportunities of the next industrial revolution in clean technology by committing India to 100% clean energy.”