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India

Volume 19: debated on Monday 1 March 1982

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will use the occasion of the Festival of India to promote trade between India and the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade has accepted an invitation to address a conference on the Indian market organised by the British and South Asian Trade Association to coincide with the opening of the festival.

The Festival of India presents a unique opportunity to improve political and cultural relations between the two countries, especially because of the visit of Prime Minister Gandhi. Surely it is not enough for the Secretary of State for Trade to address a conference. Surely what should be done in these circumstances—

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is making proposals. He should ask a question.

Does the Minister accept that it must be in the interests of Britain as well as of India to correct the massive trade imbalance and to help India, especially in the light of the proportionate cut in the economic assistance that we provide?

I assure the House that our efforts to nourish both economic and political relations with India will certainly not be confined to the period of the festival, during which, of course, we shall watch and admire artifacts of the Indian civilisation. Our relationships with India are of considerable importance and the subject of continuous scrutiny and endeavours by not only my Department but others.

Is not the main purpose of the Festival of India to foster music and the arts in the context of historic ties and warm relationships between India and the United Kingdom?