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Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 3 May 2011

14. What recent progress he has made in strengthening bilateral relations with India; and if he will make a statement. (53535)

There has been significant progress on building the bilateral relationship with India since the Prime Minister’s visit to India in July 2010, with increased co-operation across the full scope of activities.

Given the desirability for the UK and India of increasing the trade between the two countries, will the Minister tell the House what progress has been made on the negotiations for an EU trade agreement?

I completely share the hon. Lady’s objectives. India is rising in importance, and that is most evident economically. Insufficient progress has been made, but progress is still being made and Britain is at the forefront of trying to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible.

Does the Minister know of any plans for the Indian Prime Minister to reciprocate, in the light of our Prime Minister’s successful visit to India last July?

Discussions are under way, and we would greatly look forward to welcoming such an eminent political leader to this country. There are no fixed plans at this point, but we hope to advance such plans as soon as possible.

We welcome any progress made on the EU free trade agreement with India. However, as recent events have highlighted, a trade policy is no substitute for a broader foreign policy. Will the Minister therefore tell us what other foreign policy priorities the Government are pursuing in respect of our relationship with India?

I accept that the relationship between our two countries goes beyond economics, although that is increasingly important. We share historical links; we share interests in global security; we share democratic and institutional relations; we share cultural ties; we share sporting links; and I understand that you, Mr Speaker, are expected to visit India later this year further to strengthen relations between our two countries.