Prime Minister Theresa May will embark on a three-day trip to India on November 6 in her first bilateral visit outside the European Union since assuming office in the wake of the June 23 Brexit vote, it was officially confirmed in London and New Delhi on Sunday.
A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said the visit was “at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”. The two prime ministers will inaugurate the Indo-UK Tech Summit in New Delhi scheduled on November 7-9.
Trade is on top of the British agenda for the visit as May prepares the country for a future outside the European Union, in which an economically resurgent India is expected to play a significant role. Her delegation will include several business leaders, Downing Street said.
May, who met Modi during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, said: “As we leave the European Union, we have the chance to forge a new global role for the UK - to look beyond our continent and towards the economic and diplomatic opportunities in the wider world.”
“I am determined to capitalise on those opportunities, and as we embark on the trade mission to India, we will send the message that the UK will be the most passionate, most consistent, and most convincing advocate for free trade.”
Besides New Delhi, May is likely to visit another city during her trip. Several business deals are expected to be signed, besides reviewing the progress of deals worth 9 billion pounds signed during Modi's November, 2015 visit to London.
May added: “The relationships between our two countries are strong, and the Indian diaspora plays a vital role in our national life. In my talks with Prime Minister Modi, I want to build on our relationship for the benefit of both our countries, generating jobs and wealth and maintaining cooperation on defence and security.”
During the visit, the Indian side is likely to raise the issue of new immigration curbs on non-EU students and professionals, plans for which were announced at the ruling Conservative party conference in Birmingham last week.
There is growing demand in Britain that the two-year pilot for easier and cheaper visa currently running in China should be extended to India, which may be one of the announcements during the visit.
During her visit, May will also be expected to expound on Pakistan’s export of terrorism to India. After the recent criticism of Pakistan by the US in the wake of the Uri attack, a similar statement from another permanent member of the UN Security Council like Britain is likely.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will join the visit and attend the Joint Economic and Trade Committee meeting. Unlike in the past, the prime minister’s delegation this time will include representatives of a range of small and medium enterprises, Downing Street added.
May said: “In the past, the focus of trade delegations has been big businesses, but I want to take a new approach that recognises the full range of British business. So this time we will be focussing on small and medium sized businesses – and, importantly, the delegation will include representation from every region of the UK.”
Her delegation will consist predominantly of SMEs, including Geolang, an innovative cyber security company based in Cardiff, Torftech, a creative energy company based in the South-East, and Telensa, a company focussed on smart city solutions based in Cambridge.
May previously visited Hyderabad as Home secretary in November 2012 to address top officers in the National Police Academy, and mentioned how the lessons from the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were incorporated into Britain’s security forces.