Putting economic engagement at the centrestage of their relations, India and the United Kingdom said Thursday that they will sign commercial deals of 9.2 billion pounds over the next three days as Prime Minister Narendra Modi began the first bilateral visit to the country by an Indian prime minister since 2006.
New Delhi promised a new “fast-track mechanism” as the two sides firmed up at least 27 deals, covering sectors ranging from banking to energy, skill development to environment. The UK said it plans to invest in three Indian smart cities and the two sides also announced the signing of a civilian nuclear agreement.
Addressing a business gathering, Modi referred to his government’s decision to invite FDI in 15 new sectors. “India is one of the most open countries for foreign investment… At this point of time, it is wiser to be in India,” he said.
Earlier, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “During this visit, British and Indian companies are announcing new collaborations together worth more than 9 billion pounds… We want to become the number one partner to finance the immense economic vision of Prime Minister Modi and make London the centre for offshore rupee trading with the launch of 1-billion worth of bonds including the first government-backed rupee denominated bond.”
He said relations between India and the UK, once “imprisoned by the past’’, were now a “modern, dynamic partnership’’.
The UK accounted for 8.56 per cent of total foreign direct investment in India during the last 15 years. Indian companies employ 110,000 people in the UK.
“We want to forge a more ambitious, modern partnership,” Cameron said, noting that India has more investments in Britain than in the rest of the European Union combined.
Asked about an upcoming referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, Modi said: “As far as India is concerned, if there is an entry point to the European Union, that is the UK”.
“The conclusion of the civil nuclear agreement is a symbol of our mutual trust and our resolve to combat climate change. The agreement for cooperation in India’s Global Centre for Clean Energy Partnerships will strengthen safety and security in the global nuclear industry,” he said.
Modi said the economic ties between the two countries is “quite robust and a key pillar of our partnership”.
“We will launch a new fast-track mechanism for UK investments in India. The revival of India-UK CEO Forum is a welcome step,” he said.
The joint statement said Modi noted the partnership of UK and India in efforts to improve the Ease of Doing Business. They announced a new Ease of Doing Business Partnership including several different strands of work which will provide impetus to greater investments, it said.
On defence and security cooperation, he said “UK will also be a strong partner in India’s defence modernisation plans, including our Make in India mission in defence sector”. The UK, he said, will participate in the International Fleet Review in India in February 2016.
Agreeing to intensify their political dialogue and hold regular bilateral summits, the two sides decided to support development in other regions of the world. Cameron expressed strong British support for India’s permanent membership of the reformed UN Security Council and membership in the international export control regimes.