Updated: August 21, 2014 6:59:39 pm
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is scheduled to hold meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley during his first-ever tour to India from Monday.
The three-city visit starts in Delhi, where Clegg is also scheduled to lay a wreath at India Gate in memory of Indian soldiers, then move to Mumbai on Tuesday and end in Bangalore on Wednesday.
Clegg, leader of the UK coalition partner Liberal Democrats, will be leading a 50-strong trade delegation to promote investment in three key focus sectors of education, food and retail, and defence and aerospace.
“This will be the largest business delegation led by a senior member of this coalition government to India since the election of Prime Minister Modi,” Clegg said of his upcoming three-day tour which is his first-ever visit to India.
“I lead a number of trade delegations around the world but this will certainly rank among the most important I have ever undertaken during my time as Deputy Prime Minister because of the warmth of the relationship between two nations and the intimacy with which we know each other and also because of the huge potential to build on that familiarity,” he added.
Clegg also promised to listen to any grievances around the UK’s stringent student visa norms. He said, “There has been a fair amount of controversy, polemic and misapprehension about some of the recent visa changes as far as the access granted to Indian students. And I am going with one simple unambiguous message: you are welcome.
“I will listen very, very carefully to the objections and the reservations and I will not hesitate to suggest that we should make further changes where they are well-founded.”
The business team accompanying Clegg is fronted by NRI lawyer Vijay Goel, chair of the Asian Business Association of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We are extremely excited for our member companies, which include many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) representing the three focus sectors, at the prospect of closer links with India and taking advantage of the further liberalised regime under the new Indian government,” Goel said.
While complete details of Clegg’s itinerary remain undisclosed due to security reasons, Clegg has stressed his focus on the three sectors and is intended to strike some lucrative deals for both Indian and British firms.
He explained, “The reason I have narrowed down the three sectors is simply to focus my time and attention on sectors where I think there is real capacity for rapid growth. In aerospace – a very significant sector for the British economy – for instance, it is estimated that by 2032 that Indian airlines will need to buy over 1,200 new aircraft.
“In retail, there is the burgeoning middle class in India looking for new opportunities. I want to do my bit to build on the foundation already laid by some UK household names there.
“Education is perhaps the most important of all because the exchange between British students studying in India and Indian students studying in our world class universities seems to me to be absolutely fundamental to our relationship,” he said.
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