‘Britain must invest more in India, double trade in 5 years’

December 18th, 2009 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Dec 18 (IANS) British companies must ramp up investments in India so that bilateral trade can double from its current $12 billion-level within five years, offering Britain growth opportunities as it emerges from the recession, India’s high commissioner to Britain says.

“The composition of the UK’s exports to India is also not quite reflective, nor appropriate, of the relations between a very fast growing large developing economy and an established developed economy,” Nalin Surie wrote in an article published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Surie took the unusual step - this is the first time an Indian envoy to Britain has written for a British paper - just ahead of British Business Minister Peter Mandelson’s visit to India beginning Friday to develop ties in business, science and technology.

The call by Surie, describing Britain’s share in the two-way trade as “far below optimal,” comes amid continuing demands by India to make it easier for Indian companies to send their employees on intra-company transfers to Britain.

Although Indian companies are today the second largest investors in Britain after the US, they have been increasingly frustrated by ever-tightening migration rules enforced by the Labour government partly in response to political pressure and partly to accommodate European workers.

Surie said British companies must overcome short-term considerations and invest heavily in India, particularly in its burgeoning infrastructure sector, even as Britain confronts its longest-running recession.

“At a time of economic difficulty, India offers to the UK economy unparalleled opportunities that can help revive manufacturing and employment in the UK and also provide a fresh impetus to the City of London,” the Indian envoy said.

“India-UK trade is currently at a level of $12 billion. At a time of economic recession in the UK, it may appear to be unrealistic to set ambitious targets for bilateral trade with India but I would suggest that we should work towards doubling this trade in the next five years. We must also substantially enhance the flow of FDI from the UK to India.”

Surie said India is keen to attract British investments in power, roads, ports, shipbuilding, inland waterways, civil aviation and telecommunications as it seeks to attract investments of more than $850 billion over the next five years.

It was particularly important, said Surie, that British companies geared up their investments in India “at a time of economic slowdown not only in the UK but in its principal markets such as the EU and other developed countries”.

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