India dismisses criticism by Labour MP on bilateral ties

India has dismissed the criticism by a top Labour lawmaker that New Delhi was downgrading its trade ties with the UK, saying bilateral trade has crossed 10 billion pounds mark despite the continuing global economic slowdown.

Barry Gardiner, the chairman of the Labour Friends of India, had yesterday alleged that the absence of a representative of the Indian High Commission during a debate in the House of Commons amounted to India downgrading its relationship with UK.

Gardiner's remarks has created ripples in diplomatic circles as it was considered "unprecedented" for an MP to publicly criticise a foreign diplomatic mission. Indian diplomats refused to join issue with Gardiner, but refuted his allegation that India had downgraded its trade relationship with the UK and the mission here issued a statement to the refute the charge.

"As a matter of fact, India-UK trade has crossed 10 billion pounds mark till November 2011 against 9.8 billion pounds in whole of 2010, despite the continuing global economic slowdown. FDI from UK into India registered a substantial increase in 2011, from a level of USD 755 million in 2010-11 to over USD 2.5 billion during April - October 2011," the High Commission said.

There had been several new investments and acquisition of businesses by Indian entities in the UK in 2011, it said. "Last year 2011, has seen a very full range of trade and investment engagements between India and UK including Infrastructure financing conference, SME conference, India- Wales business meet in Cardiff and a number of ministerial visits and bilateral interactions from India to UK," it said.

Senior Indian origin Labour MP Keith Vaz today defended the Indian high commission here after his party colleague Gardiner, who also chairs the All-Party Group on UK-India Trade, called it "rudderless" in the House of Commons.

Keith Vaz told PTI: “The Indian High Commission here is doing an excellent job. The acting High Commissioner has met with me and other Members of Parliament whenever requested and has always been very accommodating”.

“Barry Gardiner should meet with the Acting High Commissioner to discuss his concerns and come to a resolution that is acceptable to both parties," he added. Refuting Gardiner's contention, the High Commission statement said: "FDI from UK into India registered a substantial increase in 2011, from a level of USD 755 million in 2010-11 to over USD 2.5 billion during April - October 2011".

According to the transcript of the debate, MPs from various parties who participated wanted the David Cameron government to prepare for the June visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the UK.

Several MPs wanted the government to do more to engage with the fast-growing economy in India, and were looking forward to an agreement between India and the European Union on free trade, scheduled for early February.

Some members, however, raised the issue of non-payment of dues to British companies who were engaged during the Commonwealth Games, an issue that has been taken up at the prime ministerial and other levels.

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