India, Britain to get Brown boost in their ties


New Delhi : British Prime Minister Gordon Brown comes here Sunday on a two-day state visit that is expected to consolidate burgeoning economic ties between the two countries and unfold a pragmatic agenda of cooperation on global issues ranging from UN reforms and counter-terrorism to climate change.

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Brown, an admirer of Indian culture and a strong advocate of accommodating a rising India in a reformed international system, flies in here from Shanghai Sunday afternoon as part of a strategic initiative to raise the profile of Britain’s ties with two of the world’s fastest growing economies.

In so far as state visits by visiting leaders go, Brown has an exceptionally packed schedule in the nearly 30 hours he will spend on his maiden trip to India as the prime minister.

Brown has a host of events lined up for him that includes the conferment of an honorary doctorate by Delhi University, an interaction with women involved with community development, the launch of an ambitious India-Britain sports initiative and a power breakfast with top Indian corporate honchos.

One of the highlights of Brown’s visit is a speech he will make Monday morning on the reform of international institutions that is expected to stir New Delhi’s flagging campaign for a place in an expanded UN Security Council.

The fact that Brown, who comes here accompanied by Britain’s top corporate and academic figures, has chosen New Delhi to make this vision statement underscores Britain’s strong belief in India’s role as a power in an evolving multi-polar world.

Leading themes of Indo-British engagement centering on enhanced economic and educational linkages and counter-terrorism will top the agenda when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets his British counterpart for the fourth India-Britain summit Monday evening.

Along with old themes, the two leaders will try to explore fresh avenues of cooperation in addressing and managing a raft of global challenges like climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and discuss the politically volatile situation in Pakistan and the dangers of increased Talibanisation of Afghanistan.

They will also explore the possibility of working together in third countries, British High Commissioner Richard Stagg said ahead of Brown’s visit.

As he comes to India after a visit to China, Brown and Manmohan Singh will share their experiences and perspectives on their recent visit to that country and also discuss the prospects of promoting democracy and political reforms in Myanmar where both New Delhi and Beijing have considerable stakes.

The two sides will also hold talks on proactive intelligence sharing to minimize terror attacks at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in New Delhi and the Olympics in London 2012.

Brown comes to India at a time when New Delhi is close to clinching a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Brown’s reiteration of Britain’s support for global civil nuclear cooperation with India will strengthen New Delhi’s hands in garnering support of other NSG countries.

With the growing appetite of British universities for forging close linkages with India that is seen as an emerging knowledge power, India and Britain will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on leadership development in the sphere of higher education.

There may be some discordant notes on the issue of proposed British immigration policy that has rung alarm bells in this country, especially among professionals who still see Britain as their preferred destination.

“India will convey its concerns and seek clarifications,” an official, who did not wish to be named, said.

Business ties between India and Britain are growing by the minute. 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 Britain with more than 50 Indian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Indian companies have invested over $1 billion in India.

Besides business, Brown will be keen to expand cooperation with India in a slew of developmental, education and health-related projects that promise to bring the benefits of diplomacy to ordinary people in India.