Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up his new British counterpart David Cameron on Wednesday for a 10-minute chat focusing on the world economy to inaugurate a promised “new special relationship” between the two nations.
A spokesman for the British premier described the talks as “very warm and friendly,” underscoring the Conservative leader’s election manifesto pledge to “establish a new special relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy.”
“Prime Minister Singh invited the prime minister to make an early visit to Delhi.”
Forty-three-year-old Cameron made diplomats in New Delhi and London sit up by choosing India to be the destination of his first overseas trip upon becoming leader of his party in 2006.
Recalling the meeting with Cameron, Manmohan said, “I recall with great pleasure our meeting in New Delhi in September 2006. Over the years, our bilateral relations have diversified into a vibrant and multi-faceted strategic partnership encompassing almost all areas of human endeavour.”
The manifesto also seeks to build a “closer engagement with China while standing firm on human rights”; work towards “greater stability” in Afghanistan and Pakistan and support permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council for Japan, India, Germany, Brazil and African representation.
“Cameron essentially took out Labour’s hyphenated relationship that always spoke of India in the same breath as Pakistan and China,” a senior Indian diplomat said.
In February, Cameron reiterated his commitment to India, saying: “The case for that special relationship just gets stronger and stronger. India is the second largest investor in Britain, there are 600 Indian companies based here and trade between the two countries is 13 billion pounds a year.”
“The fact that we are both democracies makes a huge difference in our relationship.”
However, Conservative policies on placing a cap on skilled immigration — agreed in a policy package with its coalition partner the Liberal Democrats — is expected to hit India more than any other country.
A coalition agreement published on Wednesday said, “We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limits.”
Indians workers, led by I.T engineers, constitute the largest number of skilled non-EU migrants in Britain and the proposal for a cap — to be in its tens of thousands — is certain to be opposed by Labour.