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British foreign secretary pushes Eurofighter deal in India

08 July 2014

British foreign secretary William Hague, on a two-day visit, has lobbied India to abandon plans to buy the French Rafale fighter jets and instead consider buying the Eurofighter, in a bid to corner a multi-billion-dollar order for India's multi-role combat jets.

Britain is still hoping for a new deal involving the Eurofighter Typhoon jet that is partly built in Britain once India's stalled deal to buy 126 Rafale jets from France's Dassault Aviation collapses.

"The UK foreign secretary did indicate the technological advantages of the product that they have available," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.

During talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new team, Hague and UK finance minister George Osborne sought to bolster trade and investment ties with Asia's third-largest economy.

Osborne, who was in Mumbai on Monday, said missile system group MBDA, in which BAE Systems has a stake, has already signed a 250 million ($420 million) deal to supply defence equipment to the Indian Air Force.

Other shareholders in MBDA are Airbus Group and Italy's Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, with which India scrapped a 560-million-euro helicopter deal following allegations of graft against the company.

Besides defence sales, the UK is also interested in India's plans to build a 1,000km (600 mile) industrial corridor between financial capital Mumbai and high-tech hub Bangalore, Akbaruddin said.

Hague and Osborne who called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi today, conveyed the government's keenness to work with the new government in New Delhi and further strengthen and expand the traditionally strong India-UK ties.

They reiterated the UK's desire to deepen economic linkages with India. Towards this end, the UK proposed an expansion of its network of diplomatic and trade offices in India.

Modi conveyed his appreciation for the invitation from Prime Minister Cameron and said he looked forward to an early opportunity for a substantive visit to UK to take the relationship to a qualitatively new level. He also conveyed his invitation to Prime Minister Cameron to visit India.

Modi noted the many strong links that have created a strong foundation for India-UK relations, especially the contribution of people-to-people ties, the strong and successful Indian diaspora and the generations of students. He also discussed with the visiting British Ministers ways to strengthen ties in the area of trade, investment, infrastructure development, energy, cyber-security, defence equipment, education and science and technology.

The prime minister reiterated his strong commitment to develop friendship and cooperation with all neighbours.

Hague, meanwhile, stated today that his government would erect a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the United Kingdom next year as a symbol of peace between the two countries.

A mutual feeling of non-violence is propagated within the two countries, he said.

"There are many important links between the two countries and they can help job and opportunities in both countries. It's a new government now," said William Hague.

Hague further added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be warmly welcomed in the UK and the relationship between the two countries will be discussed extensively if he visits in the future.

"UK and India are already big investors in each other's economy. India invests more in UK in comparison to whole of Europe put together," he added.

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