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December 1, 2006

Beckett, guest of honour at LFIN lunch, hails India as a scientific super power

India is emerging as a major scientific super power and Britain is keen to be its partner, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said on November 14.

Back from a six-day tour of India, Beckett told a large gathering of Labour Friends of India (LFIN) that any country which is keen to develop science and technology must consult and cooperate with India.

"India is a major scientific super power," she observed at the LFIN Annual Lunch at the High Commission of India in London.

She said that India has been such an important part of global infrastructure that everything that U.K. wants to achieve globally has to be done in partnership with India.

She also referred to the signing of Science and Technology agreement with India during Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal's visit to the U.K. a few months back and said it had helped both the countries. "Our relationship is mutually beneficial in the areas of trade, investment, science and technology, tourism and education."

She also reiterated Britain's support for India's candidature to the U.N. Security Council. "We strongly support India's candidature to the U.N. Security Council and I reaffirm that," she said.

The Foreign Secretary noted that, "We are working on a whole lot of issues which include counter-proliferation, and counter-terrorism." The two countries are "so close now than ever before". India has re-emerged as a power in the region which does not have the common values which we share like democracy, rule of law, moderation and tolerance. "We are major dialogue partners," she said.

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India, U.K. to promote bilateral trade: McCartney

British trade minister McCartney, on a five-day visit to India, met Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath on November 27 and discussed ways to boost bilateral trade and investment ties between the two countries.

"Both the leaders agreed that there are lot of areas where synergies can be developed resulting in mutual benefit for both the countries," a senior official in the Commerce Ministry said after the meeting.

"There is a huge scope for boosting the already strong trade and investment ties between the two countries," he added.

McCartney's visit follows the India-U.K. Investment Summit held in London in October and attended by Prime Ministers of both the countries.

This is an indicator of the U.K.'s continuing commitment to developing its bilateral business relationship with India, the official said. Britain and India have witnessed over 20 percent annual growth in their bilateral trade in recent years, with trade in goods and services totalling 7.9 billion in 2005.

The official said that the two Ministers also discussed in detail multilateral issues relating to the Doha Round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks.

The British Minister also pitched for lowering of import tariff on scotch, the official said.

During the Delhi leg of his visit, McCartney also met with Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora.

McCartney, who arrived in India on November 23, aimed to study how British businesses operate in the country, particularly the eastern region. His first halt in the country was Kolkata, where he pitched for infrastructure projects on the public-private participation (PPP) model in West Bengal.

British firms have the capability to deliver top quality budget infrastructure on time, McCartney said at an interactive session with the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in the city.

McCartney also met West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.

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U.K.-India air traffic doubles

The number of passengers flying directly between the U.K. and India has more than doubled during the last two years. Between October 2004 and October 2006, the number of direct services between India and the U.K. more than tripled from 34 to 112 services per week. As a result, India has moved from seventh to fourth most popular long-haul destination from the U.K. - after the U.S., Canada and the U.A.E.

A report published by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority has said the U.K./India market is a showcase for the benefits of aviation liberalisation. Services are more frequent, and use a wider range of destinations in India, while increased competition and capacity has led to substantial reductions in air fares. Passenger numbers have reached more than two million a year in the last two years from one million, with a big increase in direct business travel.

U.K. help for C'wealth Games

British Sports Minister Richard Caborn headed a delegation that shared its expertise with India in hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The 19-member British delegation visited all the Commonwealth Games venues in the city and met with Union Minister of Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit.

"We are all looking forward to sharing our experiences with you, and working together to help deliver a memorable Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010," said Caborn in a statement issued by the British High Commission. "I believe that the cultural vibrancy of the city will ensure the games have their own very distinct flavour."

The delegation, supported by United Kingdom Trade and Investment, included companies that have been involved in organising the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

Caborn said the British and the Indian governments are working closely to draw a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on sports. "The British companies on this delegation represent the best in British expertise in the sporting field. Not only can they design world-class facilities, they can help with the professional expertise necessary to make a modern sporting event flourish."

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Mittal is Forbes richest Indian

A 39 percent increase in share prices and a hot real estate market have raised the net worth of India's 40 richest people by 60 percent this year, and helped make nine more billionaires in Forbes Asia's 2006 India's 40 Richest List. The combined worth of the top 40 richest Indians stood at $170 billion, an increase of $64 billion. There were 36 billionaires on the list, and nine new ones including Ramesh Chandra ($5.3 billion), Grandhi Rao ($2.2 billion) and Kalanithi Maran ($1.9 billion). Topping the list again was London-based steel tycoon L.N. Mittal, 56, with a net worth of $25 billion.

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