British minister in India to strengthen ties

Mumbai, July 27 (IANS) British Minister Oliver Letwin arrived here on Monday to build up on the warm relations with India and strengthen economic and financial collaboration between the two countries, an official said.

This is the first visit by a cabinet minister to India after the British general elections last May, and comes ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country in November.

In Maharashtra, Letwin, the British minister in-charge of cabinet office and chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, will meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other ministers besides top government officials and business leaders.

The two will discuss further strategic engagements between Maharashtra and the UK, cooperation on the state government’s initiatives on easing business norms, smart cities, financial services, skills and education.

He will also attend a reception for leading business magnates from Mumbai to be hosted by the British deputy high commissioner in Mumbai Kumar Iyer on Monday.

“I would like to reiterate the British government’s commitment to work towards an enhanced partnership with India.

“Our government launched the Great Collaborations campaign to complement Prime Minsiter Modi’s vision of ‘Make In India’. We look forward to forging a stronger commercial and economic relationship with his government and to welcoming him to the UK later this year,” Letwin said ahead of the visit.

On the Mumbai leg of his visit, Letwin said it is inspiring to see the broad range of engagement between the UK and Maharashtra, stretching from business and infrastructure to arts and education. He said it was particularly good to see the clear focus in Maharashtra on improving the climate for business.

Letwin will meet RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya, HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, industrialist Anand Mahindra and join a round-table conference with CEOs of top financial institutions here.

“The UK is one of the biggest investors in Maharashtra. It is also a key strategic partner. With offers of funding support for infrastructure to the extensive support on the East of Doing Business, we greatly value our partnership with the UK,” Fadnavis said.

In New Delhi, Letwin is expected to reiterate the UK government’s offer of $15.5 bn of export finance credit to support infrastructure and other needs in India, and launch a British Council report on Social Entrepreneurship whose preliminary findings suggest how the two countries can collaborate to develop social entrepreneurship.

In the national capital, Letwin will meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and other officials.

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