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UK PM in India; Afghan, defence high on agenda

India and the UK will discuss issues ranging from the situation in Afghanistan to finding ways to bolster bilateral ties during British Prime Minister David Cameron`s two-day visit here from Wednesday.



New Delhi: India and the UK will discuss
issues ranging from the situation in Afghanistan to finding
ways to bolster bilateral ties during British Prime Minister
David Cameron`s two-day visit here from Wednesday.

Cameron reached India, late Tuesday night.

As his visit coincides with the revelation that Pakistan`s
ISI backed the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and
anti-India activities, India`s concern over the process of
reconciliation of a section of the Taliban is expected to
figure during Cameron`s meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh.

An online whistle-blower`s leak of around 91,000 US
military documents yesterday revealed how Pakistan`s spy
agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) backed the Taliban
insurgency in Afghanistan and its operations against India.

During his trip, the British Prime Minister is also
expected to witness signing of the 700 million pound deal for
57 Hawk jets, with sources indicating that the deal was "close
to fruition".

Asserting that "this is a visit of unique scale and
ambition", British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg told
reporters that the aim was to start the process of building an
even closer and more productive relationship between the UK
and India.

"... one that is for the long-term, focused on addressing
the strategic challenges of global security, sustained
economic growth, and climate change, to mutual benefit".

"The objective is to inject a new energy, a new lease of
life into a relationship that the UK has not made as much of
in the past as it might have. The success of this visit will
really be judged when we look back in 12-24 months time and
see what is different," he said while referring to a feeling
among ministers in his country.

The fact that India is the first country Cameron will
visit for a bilateral visit, apart from his `compulsory
visits` to EU countries as also the US and Afghanistan,
indicates the importance the UK attaches to its relations with
this country, sources said.

On the position of the two countries on Afghanistan-
Pakistan, Stagg said "There is no huge disconnect between the
UK and India over Afghanistan-Pakistan. We have the same
objective - to avoid a return to the pre-2001 situation, with
the Taliban harbouring terrorist extremists bent on attacking
us.

"This issue for discussion between UK and Indian
Ministers will be how best to achieve an outcome that sees an
Afghan-led process that allows the international community to
play a smaller role over time in providing security", they
said.

According to sources, the issue will also figure in
the meeting between British Foreign Secretary William Hague
and his Indian counterpart S M Krishna on Wednesday.

PTI

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