M A I N   N E W S

UK says will help in copter probe
PM meets Cameron, conveys concern over graft claims in AgustaWestland deal
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 19
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today extracted an assurance from his British counterpart David Cameron that London would respond to any request for information with regard to the graft-tainted Anglo-Italian helicopter deal as the issue figured prominently during talks between the two leaders.

“I conveyed to Prime Minister Cameron our very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for AgustaWestland helicopters,” Manmohan Singh told the media after talks with the British leader.

He said India had also sought an explanation from the company to examine if the contractual provisions on unethical practices and the integrity pact had been violated. “I have sought full assistance from the UK in this case. Prime Minister Cameron has assured me of cooperation of his government in the investigations,” the PM said

On his part, Cameron promised that Britain would respond to any information sought by New Delhi, emphasising that the deal was being looked into in detail by the Italian authorities at this stage. “We will root out any problems of bribery and corruption whenever and wherever they appear. We have strong anti-bribery laws,” he added.

AgustaWestland, which manufactures helicopters in Britain, is owned by Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica, whose chief was arrested last week over allegations that the company paid bribes to win the deal with India. Italian prosecutors have suggested that one of the alleged middlemen who used to secure the deal for Agusta Westland is based in London.

Cameron is on his second visit to India after becoming the Prime Minister at the head of a high-powered delegation, which includes representatives of more than 100 companies. Enhanced cooperation in the development of the defence industrial base of India through greater emphasis on technology transfer, co-development and co-production also figured during talks between the two PMs. The British leader committed his country to making available to India the cutting edge civil and military technology in accordance with its international obligations.

Talking about cooperation between the two countries in the fields of education and science and technology, the Indian leader impressed upon Cameron the need for a visa regime that facilitated greater movement of people. To this, Cameron told him that there were no limits on Indian students wanting to study in the UK.

He sought Britain’s support in ensuring an early conclusion of a fair, balance and forward looking broad-based India-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The British PM called for enhance economic cooperation between the two countries, noting that they were on track to double trade to 23 billion pounds by 2015. The two leaders also had purposeful and productive discussions on regional and global issues, especially Afghanistan, Iran and West Asia. India conveyed to Britain its enduring commitment to assist Afghanistan through transition and beyond. The British leader also made it clear that Britain would not abandon Afghanistan after 2014 and would continue training Afghan forces for ensuring the stability of the troubled nation. They also called on Pakistan to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack.

India-UK talks

  • Both nations will commence negotiations on a civil-nuclear cooperation agreement
  • Will cooperate on joint training of their counter-terrorism forces
  • A joint working group will be set up for a regular dialogue on peace, security and development in Afghanistan
  • Britain supports India’s inclusion in the UN Security Council as a permanent member.
  • Two countries to double bilateral trade to 23 billion pounds by 2015





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