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British MPs 'deeply impressed' by Indian economy

Shyam Bhatia in London | October 14, 2003 17:27 IST

A group of British MPs is back from a 10-day tour of India, 'deeply impressed by the success of the Indian economy'. The tour, which they described as "highly successful", included visits to Jammu, Srinagar, Delhi and Mumbai.

Peter Luff, an influential MP and chairman of Conservative Parliamentary Friends of India (CPFI), led the 9-member delegation.

"Although most of our visit involved serious political discussions, we also had the opportunity to see some of India's most famous sites, including, of course, the Taj Mahal," Luff said in a statement after he returned to London last week.

"And I shook hands with one of India's most famous actors. During a visit to Film City in Mumbai, I watched Sanjay Dutt filming the last scene of his most recent movie and met him immediately afterwards."

Explaining that he had asked to see something of the Indian film industry, Luff said he and his colleagues were "sitting around" when they were told that a rehearsal involving Sanjay Dutt was on the cards. "They did a rehearsal without him, then one with him and one 'take' when he burst into tears," he recalled.

Asked what was discussed when he was introduced to Dutt, Luff replied, "No more than platitudes."

Asked if he was aware of Dutt's brush with the authorities, the time he had spent time in prison and the charges he still faces of possessing and destroying a firearm - Luff replied, "Of course, it's a bit like Frank Sinatra, isn't it?"

Luff said leading members of the Indian business community briefed the delegation on the Indian economy, army officials briefed them on the security situation in Jammu & Kashmir and senior government officials on a wide range of other issues. The MPs met a number of major political figures, including leader of the opposition and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"We were all deeply impressed by the success of the Indian economy," Luff told rediff.com. "The Confederation of Indian Industry explained to us the growing importance of the country on the global stage and the need for British businesses to invest in India and to expand their trade with this dynamic economy.

"We also saw for ourselves compelling evidence of Pakistani involvement in cross-border terrorism. The international community cannot expect India to discuss the future of Kashmir as long as terrorism persists. The population of J&K is paying a heavy price for this militancy. Only when the terror ends can proper discussions begin.

"We are all grateful to Pakistan for what they are doing on many fronts in the war against international terrorism. They must be encouraged to show the same determination to tackle terror in Kashmir."

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