British leader calls for ‘special relationship’ with India

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : British opposition leader David Cameron, bidding to become the next prime minister of his country, Friday called for building a “special relationship” between India and Britain.

The leader of the Conservative Party, Britain’s largest in opposition, told British and Indian business leaders gathered for the launch of a climate change group that private enterprises could “galvanise” ties between the two democracies.

“Four years ago for my first visit as Conservative leader, I chose to go to India. Then I said we needed a special relationship between our two countries,” Cameron said at the launch of the UK-India Business Leaders Climate Group.

“The case for that special relationship just gets stronger and stronger. India is the second largest investor in Britain, there are 600 Indian companies based here and trade between the two countries is 13 billion pounds a year,” Cameron said.

“It’s about galvanising the partnership between India and the UK, and reinvigorating the great partnership in climate change. The fact that we are both democracies makes a huge difference in our relationship,” said Cameron, whose party leads the ruling Labour by seven points in opinion polls ahead of general elections due by June 3.

The Conservatives are seeking to end 13 years of Labour rule in Britain at the next general elections, which are expected to be closely fought, and Cameron’s remarks reflected his party’s foreign policy agenda in government.

The climate group will be chaired jointly by British retailer Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) secretary general Amit Mitra, who welcomed Cameron’s remarks.

“The initiative for the climate business group came from the Conservative Party and to me it signals the beginning of a deeper exploration of substantive and deliverable engagement with India,” Mitra said.

“David Cameron has a special place for India. India is a very major player in his matrix of priorities,” Mitra added.

The launch of the climate group at the London Business School was attended by Stuart Rose, Rolls chairman John Rose, Indian MP Sandeep Dikshit, senior members of the Conservative Party dealing with climate change and environmental issues, and Lord Chris Patten, co-chair of the UK-India Round-Table.