Britain offers India £1 billion soft loan, upbeat on business ties

HagueModiIn a slew of initiatives aimed at upscaling bilateral ties, Britain has offered India £1 billion line of credit for investment in the crucial infrastructure sector and agreed to concretise civil nuclear cooperation with Asia’s third largest economy.

British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague, and UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who visited India July 7-08, called on the India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

Business topped the agenda, as the two senior ministers brought with them the largest business and ministerial delegation ever. London is vocally upbeat about furthering investment and economic cooperation with New Delhi. Britain is currently the third largest investor in India; in 2013, Britain exported goods and services worth $13 billion to India and imported goods and services from India worth 15.08 billion USD. India too plays an important role in the British economy and is the fifth largest foreign investor there. Currently, there are 700 Indian companies in Britain employing over 7000 people.

In Mumabi, Mr Hague and Mr Osborne outlined a number of sectors and issues on which they wish to engage the new Indian leadership. A major thrust of the visit was to promote British investments in India.

Opening the new £1 billion line of credit is one such initiative. This is in addition to the £3 billion worth of export finance, available to foreign companies, announced by the 2014 UK budget. Indian companies will be able to apply for loans provided the UK-based companies have a minimum of 20% involvement in the project.

The two sides discussed possibilities for stepping up British investments in infrastructural development programmes like the Bangalore-Mumbai economic corridor.

“The external affairs minister did indicate that the perspective plan on this should be available by the end of the year. We hope that UK and British companies would be involved in this major infrastructure project,” said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry.

Britain's foreign secretary HagueThe visit also renewed the possibilities of concretising the civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries, which had signed a joint declaration on civil nuclear cooperation in 2010.  He also said that the two leaders discussed issues relating to cyber-terrorism and counter terrorism, along with issues of regional and international concerns. He added the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan were also discussed.

India also discussed the issue of reform and restructuring of the UN Security Council, of which Britain is a permanent member, and India is seeking a place in. Britain has consistently supported India’s claim for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

The two countries, who have been trying to leverage the approximately 1.5 million Indian diaspora living in the UK as a connector between the two countries, also discussed various aspect of people to people relations, including consular relations, visa matters and extradition, added Akbaruddin.

An issue of particular importance to India is the extradition of Raymond Varley, a British citizen accused of being part of an international paedophile ring and sexual offender against children in India in the 1980s and 1990s. On May 29, India filed a petition in England for the extradition of Raymond Varley after a District Court refused to grant the Indian government’s request for extradition after admitting Varley’s plea that he was suffering from dementia.

The British foreign secretary is reported to have assured India that his government would look into the matter.

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