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27th Muharram 1436 | Saturday, Nov 22, 2014
World

David Cameron likely to visit India in February

Saturday, 12 January 2013
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January 12:

British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to visit India next month during which defence, trade ties and tougher student visa restrictions will top the agenda.

Downing Street, which is yet to confirm the dates of the upcoming visit, said: "We cannot give out details of his movements at this stage".

However, a prime ministerial visit was expected in the New Year and latest reports indicate it could be as early as February.

According to the Financial Times, the Prime Minister is expected to reassure Indian students that they are welcome to Britain after recent figures suggested a significant drop in foreign student numbers.

During his India tour in November 2012, London mayor Boris Johnson had revealed a 9 per cent fall in the Indian students applying to study in the UK last year. A further drop of 25 per cent is the forecast for this year.

The UK's coalition government has repeatedly stressed that there is no cap on overseas student numbers.

Cameron will also have British defence exports high on his list of priorities after a UK-led consortium had failed to bag a $20-billion contract to supply fighter jets last year.

France's Dassault with Rafale had emerged as the preferred bidder for the 16-aircraft contract, beating the UK-German-Italian-Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon.

The British PM is also expected to focus on broader business ties with India, pushing for sales of other defence and civil equipment and encouraging Indian conglomerates such as the Tata Group to bolster their investments in the UK.

India is the largest market for British goods outside the European Union and Tata is the biggest manufacturing employer in the UK.

This will be Cameron's second major visit to the country in less than 30 months – the first back in July 2010 undertaken as the largest UK trade delegation soon after taking over as Prime Minister.

During discussions with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, he had said he wanted to make Britain the "partner of choice" for India and the two sides had agreed to nearly double bilateral trade by 2015.

Both governments claim the target remains on track.

The 2013 tour comes in the wake of a series of high-profile British visits to India, including Foreign Secretary William Hague's talks with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in November last year.

India will also become the first country to clock a second visit from Cameron among the BRIC nations – with the Tory chief visiting Brazil, Russia and China once each since he assumed office as PM in 2010.

The usual protocol of a return visit by Manmohan Singh seems to have been overlooked for the moment.

--PTI

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