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UK thanks India for Hawk deal

October 01, 2003 15:20 IST

British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has thanked India for the billion pound order to purchase Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft.

Prescott was the guest of honour at a dinner organised by Labour Friends of India on the fringes of the annual meeting of the ruling Labour Party in Bournemouth.

"We were delighted with the Hawk deal and it was very much appreciated in my constituency," Prescott told the guests on Tuesday night.

Among those present were Indian High Commissioner Ronen Sen, members of parliament and local councillors from across the country.

He said India represents a "very important relationship for us".

The British leader said he had visited India several times and most recently earlier this year, on his way back from Japan, when he received an environmental award from his Indian counterpart Lal Kishenchand Advani.

At one point Prescott had his audience in splits when he recalled a visit to New Delhi and his spontaneous decision to ride in an auto-rickshaw.

He said his puzzled host, British High Commissioner to India Sir Rob Young, looked on helplessly as he abandoned the diplomat's Rolls Royce in favour of a putt-putt (rickshaw).

"The putt-putt driver did very well because the high commissioner had only the equivalent of a £50 note to pay him with," Prescott said.

Sen said the bilateral relationship, buttressed by strong and growing economic ties, "has never been as good before as it has with".

He added, "Our economy is doing well, like your economy is doing well. In spite of natural calamities, tensions and the global economic slowdown, exports are booming.

"We have stopped accepting official aid from most countries, enhanced development assistance to less fortunate countries, joined the IMF as a creditor and we are one of the largest global producers of food grains."

India and the UK were investing nearly the same amount of money in each other, he said, adding adding 440 Indian companies registered in Britain were responsible for creating hundreds of jobs for the local economy.

"Just like you we also believe in a balance between economic growth and social justice," Sen concluded.

Shyam Bhatia in London