India is Britain’s closest friend: May
Describing India as the UK’s “most important and closest” friend and a leading power in the world, Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday said her visit to India will reaffirm the importance of bilateral strategic partnership.
In an article published in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ as she left for India for her first bilateral visit outside the UK, she said plans to promote the best of Britain during her three-day trade mission to New Delhi and Bengaluru.
She writes: “One of our most important and closest friends has to be India a leading power in the world, with whom we share so much history, culture and so may values, and which is led by a Prime Minister who is undertaking a far-reaching programme of reform.
“In other words, we are two countries with strong ties, a mature relationship and an opportunity to make that even deeper.
“That is why, today (Sunday) I will be travelling to India for my first bilateral visit outside Europe and first trade mission as Prime Minister, accompanied by a range of top British businesses, including some of our brightest small and medium enterprises.
“We will be promoting the best of Britain, sending out the message that we are open for business, and making the most of the opportunities offered by Brexit as the world s foremost champion of free trade.”
The British premier, who will hold her bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, said she will be seeking concrete steps to move the partnership forward during the meeting.
“I will be using this visit to reaffirm the importance of the strategic partnership we already have, which delivers huge benefits for both our countries, and to work with Prime Minister Modi to agree concrete steps to realise our shared vision of going even further in our cooperation across trade, investment, defence and security.
“Building 100 new ‘Smart Cities’, encouraging firms to ‘Make in India’, getting the country online with ‘Digital India’, delivering better healthcare, infrastructure, skills and finance these form Prime Minister Modi’s vision, and with our world-class architects, lawyers, financiers, engineers, medics, academics and tech experts, Britain is the ideal partner to help achieve that, creating jobs and growth in both our countries.”
Dismissing any talk of a free trade agreement (FTA), she said that focussing on that is missing the point as while an FTA cannot be signed until the official Brexit process, engagement with countries outside the EU can be stepped up.
“There is a great deal we can do right now to break down barriers to trade, open up new markets for British businesses and prepare the ground for ambitious free trade agreements once we have left the EU,” she said.
Defence, trade to be focus of Modi’s talks with PM May
Defence, security and trade relations will top the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May during her India visit as they review the “breadth” of ties after the Brexit vote.
The two leaders will discuss the “breadth” of India-UK relations during their working lunch at Hyderabad House on Monday afternoon, May’s official spokesperson told reporters at Downing Street here.
“It will not be about how many deals are signed or that kind of transactional visit but more about the depth of the ties and working towards creating more jobs and growth in both countries. Defence and security will be an important part of the bilateral discussions. We are keen to develop that partnership and see how we can put in more energy and enthusiasm into that,” she said.
“Why the Prime Minister is going to India for her first bilateral visit outside Europe, and her first trade delegation, is because India matters to us -- now more than ever. In the context of Britain leaving the European Union (EU), the aim is two-fold - to build on the groundwork already done to bring down trade barriers and deepen the UK’s relationships outside the EU,” she noted.
In reference to discussions on a potential India-UK free trade agreement (FTA), the spokesperson stressed that the UK would not be pursuing a bilateral trade deal with India while it remains a member of the EU.
“We will continue to support the India-EU FTA, respecting our rights and obligations within the EU,” she said.
While there has been wide speculation over a potential India-UK FTA, Britain remains inhibited from openly pursuing bilateral trade negotiations until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty triggers the official process of Brexit.
May, who left for India this morning, will begin her visit by opening the India-UK Tech Summit on Monday morning alongside Modi.
Following her bilateral talks with Modi, both leaders will issue a joint statement.
While in New Delhi, she is also expected to visit Rajghat and India Gate.