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UK mulls setting up joint task force with India

July 01, 2010 19:32 IST

Britain is "actively" exploring ways to set up a joint task-force with India during Prime Minister David Cameron's State Visit to New Delhi this month-end in an effort to forge "a partnership for the 21st century."

Announcing this in London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Cameron has already launched a joint task-force with the United Arab Emirates as part of efforts to elevate links with the Gulf region.

The task-force with the UAE "will develop options for strengthening our ties across the board," he said.

"I can also confirm that we are actively exploring the scope for similar initiatives with other countries, including a visit by Prime Minister Cameron to India to identify how we can forge a partnership for the 21st century," he said.

A top diplomat told PTI that the exact dates for Cameron's India visit would be finalised in a few days. "July 28 and 29 are among the dates under consideration," he said.

The foreign secretary, who was unveiling "Britain's Foreign Policy in a Networked World" at the Grand Locarno Room of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the presence of a large number of global press and diplomats, said, "The world has changed and if we do not change with it Britain's role is set to decline with all that that means for our influence in world affairs, our national security and our economy."

He said the economic power and economic opportunity were shifting to countries of the East and South; to emerging powers of India, Brazil, China and Asia and to increasingly significant economies such as Turkey and Indonesia.

"It is estimated that by 2050 emerging economies will be up to 50 per cent larger than those of the current G-7, including of course the United Kingdom. Yet the latest figures show we export more to Ireland than we do to India, China and Russia put together."

The foreign secretary said Britain has unrivalled human links with some of the fastest growing countries of the world, whether it is the millions of its own citizens who boast Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, "our close links with Africa, or the 85,000 Chinese students currently being educated in Britain or at UK campuses in China."

Noting that the English language gives Britons the ability to share ideas "with millions - perhaps billions - of people in the biggest emerging economies and - if we so choose - to build networks across the world, Hague said "it is staggering that in India 250 million school and university-aged students - four times the entire population of the United Kingdom - are now learning English.

"This underlines the essential importance of the work of the British Council and the BBC World Service, which give Britain an unrivalled platform for the projection of the appeal of our culture and the sharing of our values," he said.

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