In India next week, Cameron has business on his mind

Rs 12,000-crore Vodafone tax dues issue besides greater economic ties and deeper cooperation in defence, education and energy sectors are key areas of focus during UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Updated: Feb 15, 2013, 22:42 PM IST

New Delhi: The Rs 12,000-crore Vodafone tax dues issue besides greater economic ties and deeper cooperation in defence, education and energy sectors are likely to be the key areas of focus during the three-day visit of UK Prime Minister David Cameron here next week.
Maintaining that India and UK share multi-faceted ties, Ruchi Ghanashyam, Joint Secretary (Europe West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said Cameron would be accompanied by a delegation of CEOs of UK`s top business houses, Vice Chancellors of certain universities besides officials and others.

Asked if the Vodafone issue is likely to be raised during the visit, J Bhagwati, Indian High Commissioner to UK, said that Finance Minister P Chidambaram was in UK recently and "some of these issues including Vodafone issue were raised".

Giving details, he said, "My understanding from what our Ministry of Finance has indicated, it seems there are some discussions going on between that particular company and the relevant officials of the Ministry of Finance.

"And the sense I got is that it is moving in the direction which will be acceptable to both sides".

Before landing here on February 19, Cameron along with his delegation would be spending a night in Mumbai.

While in Delhi, Cameron will hold bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and will also call on President Pranab Mukherjee.

Cameron`s trip here is being billed in UK as the biggest trade trip ever organised by his office.

Ghanashyam stressed that India and UK have vibrant economic ties and the two-way trade rose to about USD 16.157 billion in 2011-12 from USD 12.56 billion in 2010-11.

She said that total British FDI in India, as of October 2012 from April 2000, was about USD 17.08 billion, which is about 9 per cent of the total Foreign Direct Investment in India.

Ghanashyam, said that there are about 700 Indian companies having operations in UK out of which over 70 are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Underlining that India shares useful and vibrant relationship with the UK in education and research front, Ghanashyam said that New Delhi considers London as a "valuable partner".

She said that there is growing bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism and cyber security.

"In the area of defence, we have multi-faceted relations," she said adding that there is "considerable scope".

"Energy is an important area of our relationship. Oil and natural gas is one of the top sectors of FDI from UK into India. And there is considerable scope for India-UK partnership in the sector especially non-fossil and renewable sectors," she said.

Meanwhile, Cameron has launched a charm offensive ahead to his high-profile visit to India, stating that he is a fan of Sachin Tendulkar and relishes "pretty hot" curries.

46-year-old Cameron last visited India in 2010, soon after assuming office.

Besides an attempt at winning some votes in the UK, the focus of the upcoming tour will be on opening up new markets such as energy, financial services and healthcare.

Cameron stressed on the will on both sides to meet the ambitious target of doubling bilateral trade by 2015, set during his last visit in 2010.