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Indo-UK talks: IT, trade high on agenda

By Anand K Sahay in New Delhi
September 07, 2005 22:08 IST
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As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prepares for a bilateral summit on Thursday with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the picturesque Mashobra in Shimla, the mood in the Capital is sanguine about the deepening of Indo-British 'comprehensive strategic partnership.'

"India's  excellence in information technology is now legendary, and global companies know they have to have a presence in India," Blair noted on the eve of his visit to India. The observation is tailormade to raise spirits here, given the discussion menu the Indian side is said to be focussing on.

A large number of Fortune 500 companies are using India's R&D platform in knowledge-based sectors of the economy, and the investment by US companies is substantial in this area, sources suggest. American companies operating in India have also filed hundreds of patents.

In contrast, British investments are lagging behind in utilising this country's R&D platform, though the United Kingdom is the third largest investorin India.

This is an area India would like Britain to address speedily for mutual benefit. It would also like Britain to explore new areas of engagement, notably in health-care, science and technology, business working systems, and R&D.

There are more than 400 Indian IT companies operating in Britain that provide about 8,000 jobs locally. More Indian IT entities are being encouraged to follow that path. India is keen that progress on this front is not held up. Facilitation for Indian professionals who need to travel to the United Kingdom on a regular basis on business is also likely to figure in the discussions at Mashobra.

London was the first western capital that Manmohan Singh visited as prime minister last September. Britain's significance to India is clear enough. The UK is India 's largest trading partner in the European Union and the Indian community in Britain is 1.4 million strong. Quite remarkably, India too is a big investor in Britain: it's eighth largest.

The political relationship between the two countries has consolidated significantly. Britain has backed India 's case for membership of the UN Security Council and has more recently assured cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, which was earlier prohibited territory.

India may also like to place cooperation on combatting terrorism on a higher plane after the British experience of the July 7 attacks.
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Anand K Sahay in New Delhi

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