London, Mar.26 : A new India, with a rising confidence is clearly visible, and this requires new engagement by the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a 14-member Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) delegation that was led by its president Sunil Bharti Mittal.
Asoke Mukerji, Acting High Commissioner of India to the UK was also present at Tuesday's meeting, which was a follow-up to Brown's visit to India in January 2008, accompanied by some of Britain's leading CEOs.
Brown noted that the relationship between the two countries was very strong. He shared that the Indian Prime Minister and he had a joint vision of achieving an increase in trade, in goods and services, of 50 percent over the next few years.
At the same time, he strongly reiterated Britain's commitment to remaining an open economy and resisting protectionism.
The Prime Minister highlighted his focus on key decisions that would shape the long-term stability and growth of the economy. This included issues around energy, planning processes, transportation and infrastructure, science and innovation, skills and climate change. He also expressed a desire for speedy conclusion of multilateral trade talks over the next few months.
Discussions during the meeting revolved around opportunities for greater partnership and collaboration as well as issues of trade and investment. Specific areas discussed were skills, innovation, academia-industry collaboration, SMEs, climate change, movement of natural persons and issues of productivity. The CII delegation proposed a partnership with the UK for developing a Mission on Skills for a million Indians who would then form part of the global talent pool. It was collectively felt that Britain has much to offer in term of capacity building in this regard. In the area of innovation, both sides felt that there was tremendous potential in building innovation linkages. It was felt that this was a unique area where British innovation and Indian SMEs could combine to take technology to the market and thereby, build on strengths of both. Innovation linkages would also help in the area of enhancing productivity.
Both sides committed to greater engagement between British universities and Indian Industry.
The CII delegation shared its current partnerships with some of UK's leading universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, Warwick and offered to act as a catalyst for this process. The CII delegation also expressed its confidence that reforms in the Indian education sector would be realized during the year and which would give a fillip to the education sector.
In the area of climate change, it was felt that there is business opportunity at a wider level. The CII delegation acknowledged that India lacked critical technologies in this area and recognized that India would be most impacted if ignored. It was felt that if both sides were to partner in terms of technology development and adoption, at reasonable cost, both India and the UK would become an important combine. The need for collaboration in finding a cleaner energy source was also expressed. Brown acknowledged the need for recognizing India's growth compulsions to take an agreement forward. He expressed the belief that the World Bank could play a key role in financing such a development path as well as discuss new methods of financing.
The CII delegation acknowledged that the UK had stood out by showing that the British economy had actually been able to accrue positive gains through outsourcing. The CII highlighted that, in a similar vein, it would be important to allow for movement of natural persons, as the world's population was ageing. The Prime Minister announced that a special scheme for business leaders was being drawn up to address facilitation of business visas.
The meeting marked the third interaction with a British Prime Minister by CII in the last 18 months and reflected the increasing engagement by Indian business with the United Kingdom.
The delegation also called on the Duke of York, UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment. E Mervyn Davies, Chairman, Business Council for Britain hosted a lunch for the CII delegation. Others present included Baroness Shriti Vadera, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business and Competitiveness, and Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive, UK Trade and Investment.