British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in India on Monday to try to win new investment in the face of fierce global competition as a scandal engulfs an Anglo-Italian helicopter deal.
Making his second visit to India as prime minister,Cameron's trip comes days after a similar trade mission by French President Francois Hollande, underlining how Europe's debt-stricken states are competing to tap into one of the world's fastest-growing economies.
His delegation, which includes representatives of over 100 companies, cultural and educational bodies, is the biggest taken abroad by a British prime minister and includes four ministers
and nine lawmakers.
However, the timing of Cameron's trip is not ideal. India said on Friday it wanted to cancel a $750 million deal for a dozen helicopters made by AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian
subsidiary of Italy's Finmeccanica, over bribery claims.
That will not make Cameron's job of persuading India to buy more civil and military hardware easier, and Indian officials have told the local press they intend to press Cameron for "a
fully fledged report" on what Britain knows about the scandal.
Britain has said it wants to wait until the end of the Italian investigation before commenting in full, but has given India an interim report on the subject.
At a time when Britain's government is struggling to get its economy growing, officials see India, projected to become the world's third largest economy by 2050, as a key strategic
partner in what Cameron has called a "Global Race".
"I think Britain and India can be one of the great partnerships of the 21st Century," he told the Hindustan Times.
"India is going to be one of the great success stories of this century - a rising power in the world. And I want Britain to be one of your partners as you grow and succeed."
He is expected to remind the Indian government that the Eurofighter jet - which is partly built in Britain - remains an attractive option if New Delhi decides to review a multi-billion
dollar deal to buy 126 French-made Rafale fighters.
A British government source said on Friday that London had noted that Hollande had not finalised the Rafale fighter jet deal during his own trip and that London would be asking how the
talks with the French were going.
Companies travelling with Cameron include BP, BAE Systems, De La Rue, Diageo, EADS UK, HSBC, JCB, Lloyd's, the London Stock Exchange, London Underground, Rolls-Royce and Standard Chartered.
He is also taking 30 small and medium-sized firms.