The U.K. is keen to woo Indian investors and is looking forward for enhanced bilateral trade. British Prime Minister David Cameron, leading a 100-member delegation, wants to position his country as the gateway of Europe for Indian companies intending to do business there.
Starting his three-day India visit from here, Mr. Cameron on Monday offered to relax visa norms for investors and a student-friendly policy.
His visit assumes significance at a time when large British companies like Vodafone and Shell are vehemently contesting tax claims by Indian revenue authorities.
Mr. Cameron sought a special relationship to harness the immense potential of the Indian economy that is projected to be one of the top three in two decades.
“I want Britain and India to have a special relationship... this is a relationship about the future, not [about] the past,” Mr. Cameron said, while visiting the headquarters of Hindustan Unilever, the Indian subsidiary of British company Unilever. In his presence, Unilever announced an investment of 50 million euro to set up a deodorant manufacturing factory at Khamgaon in Maharashtra.
“I am heading the biggest-ever business delegation to leave the 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,” agency reports said quoting Mr. Cameron.
He said Britain wanted to be India’s partner of choice and spoke about the possibility of developing a new business corridor linking Mumbai and Bangalore in which Britain could contribute significantly.
British companies, he said, could help India develop new cities and nine districts along a 1,000-km corridor between Mumbai and Bangalore, generating investment projects worth up to $25 billion.
“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 a prime position to secure valuable commercial deals,” PTI said in a report quoting Mr. Cameron.
He said there would be no limit on the number of Indian students who could come and study in universities there and also no cap on the length of time they could stay and work.
Addressing a gathering of industrialists at the Taj Palace Hotel, he said Britain would introduce same-day visa services for investors.
“We are going to introduce for businesses a same-day visa service to those who want to come to our country and invest,” PTI said, quoting Mr. Cameron.
On the occasion of Mr. Cameron’s visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and Transport for London (TfL), by which the latter will help the former to implement and operationalise its plans of a 150-km-long metro network in Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
On Tuesday, Mr. Cameron will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on several issues, including the VVIP helicopter supply scam and the tax matter concerning British companies.
Throwing his weight behind Vodafone, which has a tax liability of Rs. 11,200 crore in India, Mr. Cameron said, “The tax system has to be fair to all. Every company needs to know about the tax implications of any deal. If the tax system becomes completely unpredictable, it becomes totally damaging for the business.
“The investment made by Vodafone is very valuable. A company like it brings in technology and creates jobs. I am happy that some progress is being made on the tax issue... Vodafone is paying taxes and contributing to India. Vodafone and the Indian government are looking to sort out differences, and I am hopeful of a solution soon,” NDTV said in a report quoting the British Prime Minister.