India is Britain’s closest friend: Theresa May

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Describing India as the UK’s “most important and closest” friend and a leading power in the world, prime minister Theresa May on Sunday said her visit to India will reaffirm the importance of bilateral strategic partnership. In an article published in the Sunday Telegraph as she left for India for her first bilateral visit outside the UK, she said plans to promote the best of Britain during her three­day trade mission to New Delhi and Bengaluru.

She writes: “One of our most important and closest friends has to be India a leading power in the world, with whom we share so much history, culture and so may values, and which is led by a prime minister who is undertaking a far­reaching program of reform. “In other words, we are two countries with strong ties, a mature relationship and an opportunity to make that even deeper.

“That is why, today I will be traveling to India for my first bilateral visit outside Europe and first trade mission as prime minister, accompanied by a range of top British businesses, including some of our brightest small and medium enterprises. “We will be promoting the best of Britain, sending out the message that we are open for business, and making the most of the opportunities offered by Brexit as the worlds foremost champion of free trade.

” The British premier, who will hold her bilateral talks with prime minister Narendra Modi on Monday, said she will be seeking concrete steps to move the partnership forward during the meeting.

“I will be using this visit to reaffirm the importance of the strategic partnership we already have, which delivers huge benefits for both our countries, and to work with prime minister Modi to agree concrete steps to realise our shared vision of going even further in our cooperation across trade, investment, defense and security.

“Building 100 new ‘Smart Cities’, encouraging firms to ‘Make in India’, getting the country online with ‘Digital India’, delivering better healthcare, infrastructure, skills and finance these form prime minister Modi’s vision, and with our world­class architects, lawyers, financiers, engineers, medics, academics and tech experts, Britain is the ideal partner to help achieve that, creating jobs and growth in both our countries.”

Dismissing any talk of a free trade agreement (FTA), she said that focusing on that is missing the point as while an FTA cannot be signed until the official Brexit process, engagement with countries outside the EU can be stepped up. “There is a great deal we can do right now to break down barriers to trade, open up new markets for British businesses and prepare the ground for ambitious free trade agreements once we have left the EU,” she said.

She said her visit to India is about “collaboration” and highlighting the opportunities for new ways in which we can collaborate in future.

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