VVIP choppers, civil n-deal in Manmohan-Cameron talks

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 19, 2013 21:50 hrs

New Delhi: India Tuesday voiced its "very serious concerns" over the bribery allegations in the AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal during talks between British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here as Britain assured it would act on any request for information.

Both countries also agreed to launch negotiations on a civil nuclear agreement and cooperate in energy security and boost trade as Cameron and Manmohan Singh held wide-ranging talks on a wide gamut of regional and global issues, including Afghanistan.

Cameron, who is here on a three-day visit at the head of the biggest-ever 100-member delegation, and Manmohan Singh held talks in the morning after which the two released a joint statement outlining their areas of cooperation, including a MoU on health.

Cameron said his country would respond to any request for information on the AgustaWestland issue. He said the Italian authorities were looking into the issue in detail as Finmeccanica, the parent company of AgustaWestland, is Rome-based.

He asserted that Britain has tough anti-bribery laws and any one found guilty of corruption would be punished.

Manmohan Singhy conveyed India's "very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means" used in securing the $750 million contract for AgustaWestland helicopters.

"I told him that we have sought an explanation from the company by Feb 22 to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the Integrity Pact have been violated. I have sought full assistance from the UK in this case. Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigations," the prime minister said.

Manmohan Singh thanked Cameron for Britain's support for India's full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other multilateral export control regimes. "We have also decided to commence negotiations on a bilateral Civil Nuclear Agreement," he said.

Cameron also "committed the UK to make available to India cutting edge British technology, civil and military, that the Britain currently shares with its top international partners, in accordance with international obligations".

Both agreed to work together to achieve India's ambitions to join the major export control regimes (Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Group; Australia Group; Wassenaar Arrangement).

The India-EU Free Trade Agreement also figured in talks, with both sides underlining their strong commitment to its successful outcome.

Cameron emphasized that their bilateral relations has "all the potential of growth" in the decades ahead.

"It is a strong partnership that we want to build together.. we are on track to double our trade to 23 billion pounds by 2015," he said, and added that Britain is looking to open British trade offices all over India. "We want to open a pan India network of British trade offices by 2017."

Cameron also said he was "excited to examine" business prospects around the Bangalore-Mumbai industrial corridor. On Monday, he had made a pitch to help build the 1,000-km Mumbai-Bangalore industrial corridor generating investment projects worth up to $25 billion.

He also elaborated on the steps Britain is taking to boost trade, including reducing barriers to investment. Britain is bringing in same-day visa service and re-writing rules of sharing technology.

Both sides have a new collaboration on cyber security and agreed to cooperate in energy security.

They also agreed to further intensify cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Cameron said they had emphasized on the need for a "stable and secure Pakistan, which is at peace with itself and its neighbours and has eradicated the threat that terrorism poses.. and that must include to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks.. and we will work together to that end".

Afghanistan also figured in the talks, with Britain saying that "it will not abandon Afghanistan" and will continue to support Kabul even after the troops have left in 2014.

Britain will work to bring long term economic security and development to Afghanistan to prevent it becoming a haven for terrorists, he said.

They also discussed Sri Lanka and the need for "free and fair elections" in Maldives, where the former president Mohamed Nasheed has been staying in the Indian High Commission in Male since Feb 13.

Iran, Myanmar and Syria also figured in the talks.

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