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British PM Gordon Brown heads to India

The British Prime Minister heads from China to India, hoping for movement from New Delhi on tackling climate change while also building on trade and investment links.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2008 21:16 IST

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Sunday headed from China to India, hoping for movement from New Delhi on tackling climate change while also building on trade and investment links.

The prime minister's first visit to New Delhi since taking office last June is expected to follow similar themes to those seen in Beijing and Shanghai, where he said Sino-British relations had risen to new levels across the board.

Relations between India and its former colonial power are "at their healthiest for a very long time," Britain's Foreign Office said on its website.

Brown will on Sunday swap notes with his counterpart Manmohan Singh, who was in China himself less than a week ago.

During that visit, India and China, whose rapid economic growth in recent years has given them increasing clout on the world stage, agreed to increase bilateral trade to 60 billion dollars by 2010.

Brown and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday agreed to boost two-way trade and investment to the same amount by the same date, and signed deals notably on climate change technology and the development of sustainable cities.

Britain is India's fourth-largest global trading partner, accounting for 3.56 per cent of India's foreign trade in 2006-2007, according to official Indian figures.

India has emerged as the second-largest investor in Britain, with investments totalling over one billion pounds (1.9 billion dollars) in the last year alone.

Brown is aware that the rise of China and India -- the world's two most populous nations -- is shifting the global economic balance and has said it is vital for countries to work with them to address key international issues.

On climate change, Brown has said he wanted to use the four-day Asian tour to secure China and India's backing for a new deal to cut global warming after the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.

But as developing economies, New Delhi and Beijing are loathe to sign up to internationally-agreed binding targets on emissions cuts and instead want more help on creating new, cleaner energy technology.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna indicated ahead of the trip that Brown would do well not to push too hard on a commitment to binding cuts, saying carbon emissions in India were "far lower" than in many other countries.

"We want progress (on climate change) to be made but it has to be in line with our own development priorities," he told reporters.

Brown also will meet President Pratibha Patil and is expected to sign a new deal on higher education and launch a British Council-run scheme to train 750,000 more English teachers in India over the next five years.

Unveiling the plans Thursday, Brown said he wanted to make English the world's "language of choice".

On the geopolitical front, British officials in New Delhi said there would be an exchange of views on counter-terrorism, Pakistan, Nepal and military-run Myanmar where London is looking for a speedier transition to democracy.

Proposed changes to Britain's immigration policy could also feature on the agenda.

Concern has been expressed among the 1.3 million people of Indian origin in Britain about plans to make families pay a financial deposit for relatives coming from outside the European Union to ensure they returned home on time.