Brown agenda for India: UN reforms, business links


New Delhi : Britain will make a strong pitch for including India in a reformed UN Security Council, renew its support for civil nuclear cooperation and expand business and educational ties with New Delhi during Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s two-day visit here beginning Sunday.

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Brown, who is going to spend a little over 30 hours in India on his first visit to the country after becoming prime minister last year, has a packed agenda from the moment he lands in the capital Sunday afternoon for the fourth India-Britain summit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

As developmental cooperation is one of the important items on Brown’s India agenda, he heads straight to meet some of India’s successful women in the field of community programmes. He also attends an entrepreneurship summit – a showcase event designed to promote a culture of innovation and excellence – Sunday.

Manmohan Singh will host a private banquet for Brown Sunday night before the two begin official talks Monday.

After a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential palace), the two leaders will discuss a range of issues to cement multi-faceted ties with special focus on increasing cooperation in areas of global concern, like climate change, counter-terrorism, the situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Brown will make a major speech enunciating Britain’s vision of reforming the international system Monday, British High Commissioner Richard Stagg told reporters in a curtain-raiser press conference ahead of Brown’s visit.

With the growing appetite of British universities for forging close linkages with India that is seen as an emerging knowledge power, higher education will be a prominent area of focus during Brown’s short visit.

“India and Britain will sign an MoU on developing leadership in the field of higher education,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters, while announcing Brown’s visit.

As India negotiates a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a crucial step towards operationalising the nuclear deal, it can count on Britain’s support in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

“Britain is broadly supportive of global nuclear cooperation with India. The scope of nuclear collaboration between the two countries will depend on India’s nuclear status and change in guidelines by the NSG,” Stagg said.

With New Delhi bracing to host the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and London sprucing up for the Olympics in 2012, the two countries will affirm their strong sporting links and share intelligence on averting terror attacks during these prized sports events.

“We will share expertise and intelligence to minimise the risks of terrorist attacks to public transport and to avert attacks at sporting events,” Stagg said.

During the delegation-level talks between the two sides, India is likely to raise issues relating to the proposed British immigration policy that has rung alarm bells in this country, specially among professionals who still see Britain as their preferred destination.

In December last year, Britain unveiled a consultation paper on immigration that if implemented in its present form, will adversely affect millions of people who go to Britain on temporary visas annually from outside the EU.

Burgeoning business ties will be in focus when Brown addresses top Indian corporate honchos at a meeting Monday.

Britain is India’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade estimated to be over $10 billion. India has emerged as the second largest investor in the UK with more than 50 Indian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.Indian companies have invested over $1 billion in India.

Delhi University Monday will honour Brown, a self-confessed admirer of Indian culture and who has earned the affectionate sobriquet ‘Govardhan’ from British Indians, with a doctorate degree at a special convocation in recognition of his achievements in the field of academics and public services.