Mumbai, Feb 18 (PTI): British Prime Minister David Cameron today began his India visit seeking a “special relationship” between the two countries, saying it is “about the future and not the past” for which sky is the limit.
“I want Britain and India to have a special relationship…this is a relationship about the future, not the past,” Cameron said in his first public engagement here– an interaction with the staff of Hindustan Unilever, the Indian unit of British consumer products’ giant, Unilever.
Describing India as one of the “great phenomena” of the century, Cameron, who is on a three-day visit to India, his second since assuming office in May 2010, said the enormous growth of the country is going to make it the third largest economy by 2030.
“I am heading the biggest-ever business delegation to leave British shores. India’s rise is going to be one of the great phenomena of the century and it is incredibly impressive to see the vibrancy of your democracy, the great strength of your diversity and the enormous power of your economy that is going to be one of the top three economies by 2030,” he said.
“As far as I am concerned, sky is the limit.. it’s about business, economy and trade. But it is also about culture, politics, diplomacy. India is going to be one of the leading nations in this century and we will be partners and that’s why I am here today,” he said.
Britain wants to be India’s partner of choice, the visiting premier said, adding the two countries have a lot in common such as history, language, culture.
“You are the largest democracy in the world, and we are the oldest,” he said.
He also said both India and Britain face the extraordinary challenge of fighting terrorism.
“I am bringing with me the Premier League, top universities, museums — we want to tie up in so many different ways with your culture, your companies, your businesses, your people,” Cameron said.
Cameron will fly to Delhi tomorrow for talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a range of issues. The Indian side during the talks is likely to seek more information from Britain on alleged kickbacks in the Rs.3,600 crore VVIP chopper deal.
Britain has 1.5 million persons of Indian origin and that strengthens our ties, he said, adding his 100-member business delegation comprises Indian businesses and parliamentarians of Indian origin.
The business relationship between the two nations is already strong with Britain being the biggest European investor here, said Cameron, adding half of Indian investments in Europe is in UK.
“We see the power and the growth of your economy and we see amazing opportunities. For instance, I am looking to speak to your government whether we can open a new corridor between Mumbai and Bangalore of growing towns and development and working around that with you,” he said.
The British Prime Minister said he wanted his country’s companies to help India develop new cities and districts along a 1,000 km corridor between Mumbai and Bangalore, generating investment projects worth up to 25 billion.
Cameron said he wanted British firms to work with the Indian and British governments to develop nine districts to link Mumbai, India’s financial capital, with Bangalore, its technology hub.
“With me I’ve got architects, planners and finance experts who can work out the complete solution,” he said.
“It would unleash India’s potential along the 1,000 km stretch from Mumbai to Bangalore, transforming lives and putting British businesses in prime position to secure valuable commercial deals.”
On the issue of Indian students inBritain, he said there is no limit on the number of Indian students who can come and study in universities there and also no cap on the length of time they can stay and work.
The British premier said there was great excitement in his country over the fact that India is planning to add 40 million seats in its universities.
“We are also excited that you are going to double your spending on health as share of your GDP and we want to help you provide those services as well,” he said.
Pitching for highly aggressive forms of tax avoidance to be regarded as similar to illegal tax evasion, Cameron asked businesses to pay their due share of tax.
“Taxation is a part of the cost of doing business… I think the lesson for business should be, if we are cutting this rate of tax down to low levels, you should be paying that rate of tax rather than seeking ever more aggressive ways to avoid it,” he said.