Britain allays India’s AfPak concerns, confident of special ties (Lead)

July 28th, 2010 - 2:16 am ICT by IANS  

David Cameron New Delhi/Bangalore, July 28 (IANS) Britain is hopeful that the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who arrived in Bangalore early Wednesday, will infuse “a new lease of life” into bilateral ties and is confident that its new immigration policy and perceived differences over dealing with Afghanistan-Pakistan issues will not come in the way.
A defence deal for purchasing 60 British Hawk jets and a renewed push to business and educational ties are expected to be key highlights of the visit which, Cameron has said, is aimed at forging a “special relationship” with India in a tribute to its rising power.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold talks with his British counterpart in New Delhi Thursday on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues that will revolve around enhanced economic ties and expanded collaboration in education and high technologies, including in the area of civil nuclear energy.

Flagging off the British prime minister’s maiden trip to India, British high commissioner Sir Richard Stagg said “this is a visit of unique scale and ambition” that will start the process of building an even closer and more productive relationship between the UK and India.

The envoy stressed that the visit will focus on addressing the strategic challenges of global security, sustained economic growth, and climate change, to mutual benefit”.

“The objective is to inject a new energy, a new lease of life into a relationship that the UK has not made as much of in the past as it might have. The success of this visit will really be judged when we look back in 12-24 months time and see what is different,” he said. The British government is leaving no stone unturned to make the visit a success and will be treading cautiously on tricky issues that may sour atmospherics.

Downplaying perceived differences between India and Britain on dealing with the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Stagg said: “There is no huge disconnect between the UK and India over Afghanistan-Pakistan. We have the same objective - to avoid a return to the pre-2001 situation, with the Taliban harbouring terrorist extremists bent on attacking us.

“This issue for discussion between the UK and Indian ministers will be how best to achieve an outcome that sees an Afghan-led process that allows the international community to play a smaller role over time in providing security,” he said.

India was also expected to raise the issue of the British government’s cap on non-EU immigration of skilled labour, which could come in the way of ambitions to energise business ties.

Stagg, however, allayed India’s anxieties on this issue. “A visa system will never be much-loved. That is not its fate. But I am not hearing that it hinders our relationship.”

“We issued some 50,000 visas to Indian students last year. The UK welcomes foreign students and will continue to do so,” he said.

“The diversity of the contacts between the UK and India makes for a probably unique variety of activity between the two countries. This is special,” he said when asked what makes India-UK ties special. Cameron came to India with the biggest ever delegation of ministers and business honchos and will hold official talks in the Indian capital Thursday.

Senior ministers accompanying Cameron include Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vincent Cable, and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt. National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts is also part of the delegation.

In Bangalore, Cameron will visit India’s IT bellwether Infosys Technologies Ltd and defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) during his day-long visit to the tech hub Wednesday. He will call on Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj before visiting the Infosys campus in the electronic city, about 30km away.

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