Putting behind the controversy over the issue of seeking cash bonds from select category of people seeking visas for Britain and expanding the India-UK bilateral cooperation, India and United Kingdom have decided to join hands to develop the signature Bangalore-Mumbai Economic Corridor project in close association with private companies from Britain.

A decision on taking ahead the project, which had been outlined both by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and British Prime Minister David Cameron in February this year, was taken during the recent meeting that Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma had with UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skill Vince Cable and UK’s Minister for Government Policy in Cabinet office, Oliver Letwin during his recent visit to London. Mr. Cameron is keen on developing a new economic partnership with India and has been making efforts to enhance the trade and economic engagement and take it to a new level. In fact, it was Prime Minister, David Cameron who had halted the proposal for seeking cash bonds from Indian travellers seeking British visas on the grounds that it would hurt the relationship between the two countries and send a wrong signal at a time when two countries were engaged in expanding their ties.

It was decided that two senior Ministers of Britain would be travelling to India late this year to take a first-hand review of the project and work out the joint feasibility study details so that this project could be taken up for execution at the earliest. The Joint Study group, working on forging a close relationship for the project, would work out the details of execution of this prestigious project. Mr. Cameron is understood to be very keen to have Britain’s private sector take part in a big way in execution of this project. The Indian side has already sent to the British government broad guidelines for execution of the joint feasibility study and has also nominated Taleen Kumar, Joint Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) as the nodal officer for this project. In addition to this, India has also offered to UK investment or partnership opportunities in the National Manufacturing and Investment Zones. “Both sides have agreed to examine and evolve the modalities and content of a feasibility study of this project concept through mutual discussions and to work out a roadmap for a possible partnership in this area. Given the importance of Mumbai as financial centre, Bangalore as IT and Technology hub and Pune as automobile manufacturing centre, such a project could be potentially viable,” Mr. Sharma told The Hindu.

The Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had announced in his budget speech that preparatory work on BMEC is underway. He followed this up with an offer to UK to be part of this crucial economic project during his visit to Britain in May this year. The new National Manufacturing Policy aims to create 100 million jobs and increase the share of manufacturing in India’s gross domestic product to 25 per cent by 2022, from 16 per cent now. India also offered to Britain participation in the National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) and investment regions that will be autonomous self-governing township being developed in partnership with the private sector. NIMZs are proposed to be developed as green field industrial townships and benchmarked against the best manufacturing hubs in the world.

Mr. Sharma said he had also conveyed to Lord Letwin and Mr. Cable that the Indian side is looking at UK participating in the establishment and operation of NMIZs and ITIRs in Karnataka through UK companies participation via equity, technology, financing mechanisms and investment by private equity. He suggested that the consortium of UK companies should consider adopting individual NMIZs.

In a related move aimed at giving a push to investments in India, the Invest India and UK India Business Council (UKIBC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate for providing UK businesses information on investment opportunities and the accompanying regulatory environment in India. Invest India, the Investment Facilitation and Promotion Agency, is a joint venture of the DIPP, State Governments and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). UKIBC is the premier business led organization promoting trade and investment between the UK and India.