UK PM to seek 1 billion pound Hawk deal with India



London: UK will seek to sell 57 more Hawk Jet trainers to India in a deal worth a million pounds during David Cameron's first ever visit to New Delhi after taking over as Prime Minister next week.

The 57 trainers will be in addition to the 66 fighters already contracted for by the British aerospace company BAE.

Cameron is leading a clutch of cabinet ministers, who are among a 90-strong delegation, on a trade mission to India.

According to the Financial Times, defence exports will be one of the most concrete and contentious manifestations of the "special partnership" Cameron wants to forge with a rising power, which he feels Britain has neglected for too long.

According to The Times, Cameron will lead the big delegation to showcase his "commercially based foreign policy with a 1 billion pounds defence deal".

The prime minister is to travel with seven cabinet ministers, including the foreign secretary, chancellor and business secretary, in an effort to revitalise ties with New Delhi and to generate business in the insurance, financial services and technology sectors.

Cameron's team will also seek to press British interests in India's USD 11 billion (7.1 bn pounds) 126-aircraft fighter procurement contest.

Six manufacturers are in the running for the lucrative deal with EADS, the consortium that includes BAE Systems, offering the Eurofighter Typhoon jet.

The most immediate big deals, the paper said, may come in defence.

BAE hopes to sign a deal worth up to 500 million pounds to supply 57 more Hawk trainer jets, building on an established partnership with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bengaluru.

India ordered 66 Hawk jets from BAE in 2004 at 1 billion pounds cost.

All the aircraft in the follow-up deal, if achieved, are likely to be built by HAL.

The model for technology transfer and joint manufacturing could also be extended to UK aircraft carriers and shipbuilding.

Other potential defence equipment offers on the British stall include the Type-26 frigate, the "future surface combatant", which BAE Systems would seek to sell in "modular form" once its design is complete.

The UK company has been seeking shipbuilding opportunities as India's navy has sought to expand its fleet from its own dockyards rather than buying warships from other navies, the report said.

The BAE already has an armoured vehicle and artillery joint venture with truck maker Mahindra & Mahindra.

No 10 is holding an event in Bengaluru where the countries' best computer programmes will pit their wits against each other to build new applications. The aim is to illustrate the potential for collaboration.

The Times report said "BAE is hoping to win contracts for the Euro-fighter Typhoon jet, howitzers and armoured vehicles. Rolls-Royce is looking to work on India's civil nuclear programme".

Sir John Banham, the chairman of Johnson Mathey, said there was "huge scope" for British businesses to help to meet India's need for cleaner, cheaper energy.

It is expected that leading British universities will agree to develop research collaborations with Indian institutes.

PTI