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PM focused on India trade mission
David Cameron will arrive in Mumbai at the head of the largest trade delegation taken overseas by a prime minister, declaring himself on a mission to "open doors for British business" in India.
Among the party of more than 100 joining Mr Cameron on his second visit to India as PM were representatives of major companies like Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and BP, small businesses, universities, football's Premier League, the London Underground and nine parliamentarians.
Mr Cameron wants to use the three-day visit, during which he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee, to forge closer links between British business and one of the world's fastest-growing economies, and to make their partnership "one of the defining relationships of this century".
Mr Cameron appeared to indicate that he is planning to relax visa requirements to attract Indian business visitors to the UK. Asked about business concerns about the difficulty of obtaining UK visas, Mr Cameron told the Hindustan Times: "I think there's more we can do here and that's an area where I hope we can put an even more attractive offer on the table during this trip."
He will also confirm plans for a new pan-India network of British business centres, due to open by 2017 backed by £8 million of Government money, and is expecting deals to be sealed with Indian investors which will create more than 500 new jobs and safeguard 2,000 more in the UK.
But he is also hoping to get to know India better, telling the Hindustan Times he intends to sample some curries - which he likes "pretty hot" - in the home of the spicy dish, and catch some Bollywood movies during his flights.
Speaking to the paper, he faced questions over the uncertainty felt in the Indian business community about Britain's future as a "gateway to Europe" following his promise of a referendum on European Union (EU) membership and concerns that his ambition of getting net immigration down to "tens of thousands" a year will make it more difficult for businessmen and students to come to the UK.
But he rejected suggestions that his drive to double UK-India trade by 2015 had lost momentum since he made the Asian sub-continent his first foreign destination after taking power in 2010, insisting he was "on track" to meet the target. "Frankly, Britain did neglect this relationship during the first decade of this century," said Mr Cameron. "But under my Government we're determined to turn that around. Trade grew at over 20% in 2010 and 2011. We're reaching out beyond the biggest cities, with the biggest diplomatic footprint of any country in India."
Mr Cameron is expected to use his visit to explore the prospects for reviving a bid to sell the Eurofighter - made by a UK-German-Spanish-Italian consortium including BAE Systems - to the Indian air force, after president Francois Hollande last week failed to clinch the deal for France's Dassault Aviation, which was previously chosen as preferred bidder for the £6.4 billion contract to supply 126 jet fighters.
He will also send a message to Indian students that there are "no limits" on the number who can come to learn at UK universities or stay on in Britain in graduate-level jobs. And Transport for London is expected to agree close co-operation on transport planning with authorities in both Hyderabad and Mumbai, where there are plans to build a 90-mile (146km) underground train network.