Prime Minister David Cameron will make his second trade visit to India this week as he seeks to bolster Britain’s business relationship with Delhi.
Mr Cameron leads a business delegation to Delhi and Mumbai and will meet President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He is taking more than 100 business people with him in the hope of creating “one of the great partnerships of the 21st century” – between rapidly developing India and its former colonial ruler.
The prime minister was at pains last week to assure young Indians that the government’s efforts to control immigration did not mean they were not welcome in Britain.
There are also reports that Mr Cameron may try to revive a bid to sell Eurofighter aircraft to India after French President Francois Hollande apparently failed to clinch the deal.
It was announced more than a year ago that French contractor Dassault Aviation had been chosen as the preferred bidder for the £6.4bn contract to supply 126 Rafale jet fighters to the Indian air force.
The decision was seen at the time as a major setback for the consortium building the Eurofighter, which includes BAE Systems. But President Hollande has returned from a visit to India without a signature on a final contract, raising hopes that Eurofighter could still stand a chance.
There is reported to be disappointment that Mr Cameron’s visit in 2010 did not produce the trade dividends some had anticipated, but he is confident he will meet his target of doubling Britain’s trade with India from £11.5bn in 2010 to £23bn by 2015.
It is currently £16.4bn and UK Trade and Investment believes he is on track to reach £23bn by the time of the next election.
In 2010, British exports to India were worth £6.2bn; this had climbed to 8.3bn in 2011. Over the same period, imports from India went up from £8.3bn to £8.5bn.
Trade with India grew by almost 30 per cent between October 2011 and October 2012, and of the 1,200 Indian businesses in the EU, 700 are in the UK.
Mr Cameron is expected to lobby for improved access to Indian markets for British retailers and financial services providers.
Tesco already has a big wholesale operation in the country, but is keen to expand into the retail sector.