Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Monday as part of the British government’s push to inject new life into what many consider to be the rather sluggish UK-India trade relationship.
Mr Clegg is leading a 40-strong trade delegation representing key British business sectors, including aerospace, education and retail, industries that are seen as key to enhancing bilateral trade between the two nations.
“I am delighted to be leading the first trade delegation to India since the election of the new government. Prime Minister Modi has been very clear that his absolute priority is to get the wheels of the Indian economy moving, to create more jobs, boost trade and pursue greater prosperity.
“There are also the historic cultural links. The rich tapestry of British community, business, cultural and sporting life is hugely enriched by our links with India. Thousands of students take part in exchange programmes such as the UK-India Education and Research Initiative, and I look forward to seeing how we can forge even deeper and stronger bonds between our people.”
The total value of trade between India and Britain topped £16 billion last year and is estimated to total more than £22 billion in 2015.
The bulk of that sum however is made up of Indian investments in the UK.
Many key figures are of the opinion that the two nations have failed to fully leverage the historical relationship between Britain and India to realize the true economic potential a partnership offers.
The election of Prime Minister Modi has nevertheless injected new life into efforts by players in both countries to boost trade.
Mr Clegg’s visit to India follows an official visit by his colleagues, former Chancellor George Osborne and former Foreign Secretary William Hague in July.
Prime Minister David Cameron is scheduled to visit Delhi in September.
Whilst British delegations thus far have garnered some business – including a £250 million military technology deal – investment opportunities in big-ticket infrastructure, energy and defence deals have remained elusive, a shortfall that Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron will doubtless seek to rectify.
Mr Clegg, known for his support of green policies, today also pledged Britain’s backing for Mr Modi’s own widely-publicized green projects.
Mr Modi’s government, whilst making it easier to obtain environmental permits for industrial projects, has revealed plans for a slew of green initiatives, including an ambitious clean-up of the Ganges River, the building of hundreds of ‘green’ model towns and organic farming in regions bordering the Himalayas.
The UK’s Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey, who is accompanying Mr Clegg, is also set to visit Hyderabad and Talangana to explore opportunities for UK companies in the renewable energy sector.