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British Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to boost Business Ties with India

May’s visit to India is intended to start the process of building bilateral trade ties as Britain prepares to leave the European Union

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British Prime Minister Theresa May is greeted by her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, at the India-U.K Tech Summit in New Delhi, Nov. 7, 2016. VOA
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New Delhi, November 08, 2016: Calling Britain a committed and passionate champion of free trade, British Prime Minister Theresa May, is pitching for deeper business ties with India.

“It is why as Britain leaves the European Union, we are determined not to turn our backs on the world, but to forge a new outward looking role for ourselves,” the British leader said Monday in New Delhi as she began her first visit outside Europe.

May’s visit to India is intended to start the process of building bilateral trade ties as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed New Delhi’s concerns on tighter immigration laws that have adversely impacted Indian students and professionals in Britain, the British leader held out the possibility of a better visa deal for India.

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“The UK will consider further improvements to our visa offer if at the same time we can step up the speed and volume of returns of Indians with no right to remain in the UK,” May said after holding talks with Modi in New Delhi. She said, “The UK will continue to welcome the brightest and best of Indian students with latest figures showing that nine out of 10 applications are granted.”

She also announced a plan to grant easier access to business travelers from India.

Earlier, the Indian Prime Minister stressed that it would be important for Britain to allow for greater mobility of skilled professionals and students as the two countries seek to enhance trade in goods and services.

“Education is vital for our students and will define our engagement in a shared future. We must therefore encourage greater mobility and participation of young people in education and research opportunities,” said Modi.

Immigration and diminishing visa numbers have become a sticking point between the two countries. British universities are a popular stop for Indian students, but in the past five years there has been a dramatic drop in the numbers attending due to restrictions on allowing students to stay in Britain after completing their studies. Indian businesses also say that increasing investments have to be linked to allowing freer movement of professionals.

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Chef Atul Kochhar (L) slices tomatoes at his Benares restaurant in Mayfair, central London, Jan. 21, 2015. VOA
Chef Atul Kochhar (L) slices tomatoes at his Benares restaurant in Mayfair, central London, Jan. 21, 2015. VOA

But with the vote for Brexit mandating curbs on immigration, officials said there would be no relaxation in numbers or criteria, only in the process.

Much of the visit focused on May’s mission to improve business links with the world’s fastest growing economy. Both countries have decided to set up a working group to lower barriers to trade and investment as they eye a free trade deal post-Brexit.

The British leader said business deals worth more $1.24 billion are set to be signed during her visit, which concludes Tuesday. She will also visit the Information Technology hub of Bengaluru, commonly known as Bangalore. May also said India’s plans to build scores of smart cities will unlock business worth $2.5 billion for British businesses.

Calling the potential of a relationship with India “limitless,” May described India as a leading power, and said Britain would back its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

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In a reference to India’s growing tensions with Pakistan, Modi said he had conveyed to May the need for the international community to take strong action against states that support and sponsor cross border terrorism. (VOA)

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India-Russia Sign An Air Defense System Deal

Putin said that Russia places a top priority on its India relationship and the two countries had concurrent positions on key global issues.

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Russian S-400 air defense missile systems are on display during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. VOA

India has signed a deal worth more than $5 billion to buy five sophisticated air defense missile systems from Russia that could trigger sanctions by the United States.

The agreement for the purchase of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems was sealed Friday in New Delhi as Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India and held a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Although the deal was not mentioned when the two leaders appeared before reporters, a joint statement after the talks said that the two sides welcomed the agreement.

The deal, said analysts, demonstrates that India is seeking a balance as it steadily grows strategic ties with Washington, but is unwilling to forgo its long-standing defense partnership with Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, VOA

Washington has warned that the purchase of the air defense system would be a “significant transaction” violating a U.S. law passed last year under which countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors face the threat of sanctions.

New Delhi, which does not want to jeopardize its growing ties with Washington, is optimistic about avoiding U.S. sanctions.

In talks with U.S. officials, India has stressed its need for the air defense system to strengthen its capabilities against the might of China, whose ambitions are moving New Delhi and Washington closer.

“If the U.S. thinks India is an important partner in the Indo Pacific, they will find a way out,” said political analyst Manoj Joshi at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, pointing out that India is not bound to follow U.S. law.

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Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, wikimedia commons

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, Jinnie Lee, said that the law is “not intended to impose damage to the military capabilities of our allies or partners.” She did not comment on the deal, but said that any waivers would be considered on a transaction by transaction basis.

U.S. officials have said there is no guarantee of a waiver from the Trump administration, which has imposed sanctions on China’s military for the purchase of the same system. The deal figured in discussions in New Delhi when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited India last month.

Indian Air Force Chief B.S. Dhanoa has said that the S-400 system would be a “booster shot” for the Indian air force. The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced long-range, surface-to-air missile system and can take down enemy aircraft from the ground.

India is the world’s largest purchaser of arms and Russia its biggest supplier. In recent years, the U.S. has also become a significant source, with purchases adding up to $15 billion over the past decade.

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Mr. Narendra Modi

Political analyst Joshi said the deal would help restore ties between India and Moscow on an even keel — relations between the Cold War allies had cooled somewhat in recent years as New Delhi’s ties with Washington blossomed. The contract for the air defense system is one of the largest handed out by India.

After the summit, Modi spoke of a “trusted” and “special and privileged partnership” with Moscow as he addressed reporters along with Putin.

“Russia has stood by India through time and has played a crucial role in India’s growth story,” he said.

Also Read: Second Data Centre Launched In Inida By Alibaba Cloud

Putin said that Russia places a top priority on its India relationship and the two countries had concurrent positions on key global issues.

Eight agreements signed by the two countries include pacts for Moscow to build six nuclear power plants in India and cooperate with the Indian space agency in sending a manned mission to space. (VOA)