David Cameron, who arrives in New Delhi on Monday with the largest business delegation ever led by a British prime minister, expressed hope that relations between India and Britain would blossom into “one of the great partnerships of the 21st century”.
In an exclusive interview with HT, Cameron spoke glowingly about the wide range of ties between the two countries, but said he was “not complacent” when asked about the perception that the momentum he generated with his first visit in 2010 had slipped.
“I’m in no doubt that India is going to be one of the great success stories of this century,” Cameron said. “And I want Britain to be one of your partners as you grow and succeed.”
Cameron’s first ‘return trip’ to a country will focus strongly on trade and investment. Trade is set to double to around £20 billion (about Rs. 1.67 trillion) by 2015. Two of the largest foreign investors in India are British — Vodafone and BP. And, India is among the top five investors in Britain with over 700 Indian companies having set up shop there.
But, attempts to boost trade and investment have stumbled on two issues: India wants its skilled workforce to be able to move freely across Europe as part of an EU-India free trade agreement, while London has been pressing for greater market access for British companies.
The British leader told HT he was keen to improve visa services for Indian businesses.
Cameron reserved his strongest supportive comments for Indian students: “There is no limit on the number of students who can come from India to study at British universities... What’s more, there’s also no limit on the number of students who can stay and work in Britain in a graduate job after they leave university.”