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UK ministers to woo Modi during India visit

Top British officials to visit India as foreign powers seek to court Indian PM after boycotting him over riots.

Last updated: 06 Jul 2014 14:02
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The UK-India talks are expected to include bolstering defence sales to India [Reuters]

Senior British officials are set to meet India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week in a bid to pursue deeper trade ties, as Western leaders seek to court the new leader since his election in May.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Finance Minister George Osborne are set to arrive in Mumbai on Monday on a two-day visit for talks with their Indian counterparts, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

The pair will hold talks with Modi, who has raised hopes for foreign investors with his pledges to open up the stumbling economy and spur investment.

"The focus is on bilateral trade and economic ties," foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.

"India and the UK have a trade relationship which is approximately $15.8b. The trade is in favour of India," Akbaruddin said.

The two UK officials will meet Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Osborne will hold talks with Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley in the capital on Tuesday.

The talks are expected to include bolstering defence sales to India, a major importer of military weapons and other hardware.

During their visit, Hague and Osborne will hold talks with business leaders in Mumbai on Monday before heading to New Delhi.

Making up for lost time

European governments and the United States boycotted Modi for a decade over deadly religious riots which occurred in 2002 while he was running his home state of Gujarat.

But they are now redoubling their efforts to make up for lost time, with France's foreign minister and Russia's deputy prime minister visiting in recent weeks.

Modi also met US Senator John McCain last week and expressed a desire to increase trade between the two countries.

Modi will this month make his first trip outside the region since his landslide election win - to attend a summit of the BRICS developing giants in Brazil on July 15.

The BRICS meeting of leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is being held two days after the World Cup final.

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