New Delhi : Trade, investment, technology and flow of people and ideas will be high on the agenda when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Britain next week, British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith said here on Friday.
Modi and his British counterpart, Theresa May, are scheduled to hold a bilateral summit on April 18.
Briefing the media here ahead of the visit, Asquith said it comes at a time when the bilateral relationship is in “very, very good healthy”.
This is the third exchange of prime ministerial visits after Modi’s visit to Britain November 2015 and May’s visit to India in November 2016, her first outside the European Union after assuming office.
“It (Modi’s visit) comes at a time also when I think our priorities are very well aligned,” Asquith said.
Stating that trade between the two countries increased by 15 per cent in the last one year, he said that it is “remarkably balanced” in terms of trade in goods and services.
In terms of finance, he said the London Stock Exchange is playing an increasingly important role as a place to raise money to meet India’s huge infrastructure requirements.
“Over the last two years, 5.3 billion pounds has been raised by Indian issuers on the London Stock Exchange,” the High Commissioner said.
In terms of investments, he said that while Britain is the largest investor in India among the G20 countries, India is the fourth largest investor in Britain.
“Then what will be very much a focal point is the technology partnership between the two countries,” Asquith said. “The complementaries, strengths that each of us has and they are truly complementary.”
Modi’s visit to Britain this time has been themed “Living bridge and tech partnership”.
Asquith said that both sides will look into putting more resources in this sector in areas like digital aspect of technology, collaboration, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, and data protection and the fintech that goes with that among others.
He said that matching of regional expertise in Britain with that of the states of India is another aspect of the bilateral relationship.
Stating that defence is another area of cooperation, he said that Britain was one of our four countries whose defence minister attended the ongoing DefExpo, India’s premier defence trade exhibition, near Chennai.
Regarding the “living bridge” part of the theme, Asquith said that it is about exchange of people, ideas and ingenuity both ways.
Stating that it goes much beyond the fact that there are 1.5 million people of Indian origin in Britain, he said it is about relationships between institutions, universities, and research bodies.
The High Commissioner also said that there was a 30 per cent rise in the number of student visas issued by his country to Indians last year.
Stating that 14,000 Indian students go to Britain for masters degree programme every year, he said that “we want to build on that”.
At the same time, he expressed the hope that one particular issue that should be looked into is the fact that Indian universities do not recognise the one-year masters degree offered by British universities for doing Ph.D.
Asquith also said that Britain issues more work visas to Indians than all other nationalities combined.
Regarding this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which Modi will attend in London on April 19-20, the High Commissioner said that around 50 heads of state and government will be present.
The agenda, he said, will include climate change, vulnerability of small island nations, peacekeeping and helping poorer countries.
As for trade between the 53 Commonwealth countries, he said that the idea is to increase from the current $700 billion to $1 trillion.
Asked what will be the Commonwealth’s position on terrorism, Asquith said: “I imagine that one of the focus areas will be to discuss and I hope come up with an agreement on how to ensure that terrorists do not make use of the internet.”