Source: Economic Times

India-UK ties touched a new high in 2014 with British Premier David Cameron according “top priority” to India in UK’s foreign policy and a series of high-level visits taking place to foster closer political and economic relations.

Cameron held his first meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Australia ahead of the G20 Summit last month, strengthening the broad and deep ties that UK and India have.

At their meeting, Cameron told Modi that “relations with India are at the top of the priorities of the UK’s foreign policy.”

Keen to foster closer links with the world’s largest democracy, several senior ministerial delegations from the UK, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Minister Vince Cable, visited the country, reflecting the importance of India in the lead up to elections in Britain in May 2015.

It was during one such high-profile visit, by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the then foreign secretary William Hague, the UK government announced plans for a new statue of Mahatma Gandhi to be unveiled at Parliament Square in London.

The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Trust, headed by NRI economist Lord Meghnad Desai, has since been busy raising the nearly 750,000 pounds required for the nine-feet-tall sculpture to be inaugurated in early 2015.

The UK is also playing a crucial role in the lifting of the ban by European Union on import of mangoes and other vegetables from India.

In April this year, the 28-member European Union had temporarily banned the import of Alphonso mangoes and four vegetables from India from May 1.

In yet another sign of improving bilateral ties, Indo-UK trade registered 6.6 per cent growth to touch 16.4 billion pounds this year.

It is still off the mark set by the British Prime Minister of doubling two-way trade to 20 billion pounds by 2015 but is being held up as a sign of edging closer towards the ambitious target.

The first-ever Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in London in October was a step in that direction with all key drivers of India-UK economic ties coming under one roof in the heart of the city.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who inaugurated the event, made an emotional plea to the Indian diaspora in the UK to answer Modi’s ‘Make in India’ call.

Among the most prominent members of the diaspora, the Hinduja brothers were in the news with the purchase of the UK’s Old War Office building that was once occupied by the country’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill.