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Relationship with India 'very important' for UK: Prescott

Britain's Deputy PM stressed that UK's bond with India was of equal partnership, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 12:21 IST

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has thanked India for the billion-pound Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer deal -- awarded recently by New Delhi to BAe systems -- and said that his country's relations with India were "very important".

Speaking as the guest of honour at the fifth anniversary celebrations of the launch of Labour Friends of India in Bournemouth, Prescott said, "We were delighted with the Hawk deal and it was a very happy news for my constituency."

Prescott also dismissed complaints from trade unions that outsourcing to India was causing huge job losses in the UK. Every country needs to develop, and Britain also needed to adjust to economic and trade movements, he said.

He regretted the failure of talks at the recent Cancun international trade meet, but -- referring to demands made by India -- said that commonsense would ultimately prevail and developing nations would get a fair share in world trade.

Prescott congratulated Labour Friens of India group's 250-odd MPs for being very active in the House of Commons in taking up issues relating to India. Himself a founder member of the group, he recalled his several visits to India. He even related how he made the British High Commissioner, Sir Rob Young, ride with him from the Commission office to his residence in New Delhi in a "phut phut while the Rolls Royce followed".

"The High Commissioner had his first difficult ride in a phut phut and its driver his first earning of the equivalent of £50. He (the phut phut driver) rather cleverly said he had no change to give," Prescott said.

The Deputy Prime minster also said that he immensely valued the Environment award given to him by his Indian counterpart LK Advani in Mumbai.

Labour Friends of India also made it clear that being India-friendly did not mean they were anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistan. "We are friends of everyone and a special relationship with India did not mean that we were opposed to another country," said Robert Evans, a Member of European Parliament (MEP).

The Indian High Commissioner, Ronen Sen, spoke on the economic progress India has made in recent years.

About 20 MPs, MEPs and some ministers were present at the dinner meet. Labour Friends of India group's meeting has now become an important annual feature at the Labour Party conference, and is invariably attended by ministers and senior ministers.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST