British PM launches charm offensive, urges India to open up, lift barriers

British Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a veritable charm offensive in India, offering a same-day visa services for businesses,  but also gently reminded India of the imperatives of opening up the economy and lifting barriers that are holding up the entrepreneurial spirit of the rising country.

Flying into India’s commercial capital Mumbai Feb 18 with the biggest entourage of corporate honchos a UK prime minister has ever taken overseas, Cameron extolled the rise of India as “one of the biggest phenomenon” and stressed the need to raise the bar for India-UK business ties which are already robust and on an upswing.

With India emerging as one of the top investors in Britain, the prime minister’s message cut through the rigmarole and stressed on fast-tracking investments. “We want you to come to our country quickly to invest in our country,” he said in Mumbai as he announced London’s plan to introduce a same-day visa service for Indian businesses.

As the Indian government struggles with complex politics that tend to slow down the economic reforms, Cameron underlined the need for lifting barriers for making it easier to do business. “What we can achieve from this visit is both for the British side and the Indian side to look at any barriers there are to cooperation between us and work together to remove those barriers. That is the spirit with which I come to India on this visit,” he said in an address to Indian and British business leaders.

“We want the Indian government to continue to open up barriers and make it easier to do business here. We have to make sure that just as we welcome Indian investments into the UK, it is easier for British companies to invest in this vibrant and fast growing economy.”

In an interview with BBC, Cameron also urged the Indian government to prune “regulation and red tape” to spur two-way trade and investment. “We’ll be saying to the Indians: ‘We’d like to see your economy more open, more flexible, more easy to invest in, so that British firms in insurance or banking or retail can play a bigger part in the Indian economy. “It’s a conversation we need to have, but a conversion that has two sides.”