Manmohan conveys to Cameron India’s "serious concerns" at charges of corruption in contract with AgustaWestland
Though the British had hoped to gloss over the helicopter scam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday sought and obtained an assurance of cooperation from his U.K. counterpart David Cameron, who is primarily here to push for a broader trade and investment relationship.
Amid suggestions that the topic was not on the agenda for the delegation-level talks to be spearheaded by the Prime Ministers, the British hoped their “interim reply,” given a few days before Mr. Cameron began his visit, would suffice for the time being.
The interim reply was a polite way of repeating what the Italians had told New Delhi — it will not be possible to provide documents connected to the charges of bribery till court proceedings are over.
But in his statement to the media after the talks, Dr. Singh let it be known that he conveyed to Mr. Cameron India’s “very serious concerns” at the allegations of unethical means used for securing the contract for AgustaWestland.
“I told him that we have sought an explanation from the company by February 22 to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the integrity pact have been violated. I have sought full assistance from the U.K… Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigations,” Dr. Singh read out from a statement.
On his part, Mr. Cameron pointed to Britain’s stringent anti-graft laws and promised a deeper look into the charges of malfeasance in the deal.
India appeared unimpressed with Mr. Cameron’s declaration on Monday in Mumbai about making the British visa regime friendly for Indian businessmen and sought a dispensation that would ensure a greater movement of people, especially in education.
Trade, the bright star of the ties, has been growing as per expectations, and London sought greater investment avenues by evincing interest in the proposed Mumbai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor, which will supplement the Mumbai-Delhi Industrial Corridor being quarterbacked by the Japanese. “We have asked our officials to explore British participation in India’s national manufacturing and investment zones, and in a possible industrial corridor in the Mumbai-Bangalore sector,” Dr. Singh said.
With Britain being the repository of cutting-edge technology, both sides agreed to begin talks on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement and step up discussions on cyber security to make India’s IT networks as safe as possible. Mr. Cameron also reiterated his country’s support for India’s full membership of four multilateral export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and promised technology transfer in the defence sector.