Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Blair seeks to strengthen EU business ties with India


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is eager to bolster Europe's business ties with India at an EU-India summit that opened yesterday, arguing the West should embrace the booming nation's emergence as an economic power rather than fear it as a job-stealing threat.

Blair, who arrived in New Delhi late on Tuesday after two days of trade-focused meetings with Chinese leaders in Beijing, says wealthy nations must adapt to the fast-moving changes of economic globalization by building close relationships with new trade partners.

He met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday at the start of an annual EU-India meeting. The two will meet again today for British-India talks at the Indian prime minister's retreat in the Himalayas.

Britain holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Before the summit's start, Blair and his wife Cherie placed a wreath at a memorial to Mohandas Gandhi and then threw red rose petals onto the black marble monument near the site of the Indian independence leader's cremation in 1948. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner also placed a wreath.

"The principles in which he lived his life will endure forever; namely that the ultimate salvation for humanity comes when people of all colors, race, nations and religions learn to live in peace and harmony with each other," Blair wrote in a visitors' book.

"India will be a winner from greater openness," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson told business leaders and officials from both sides at the summit's start.

India's economic growth has averaged 6 percent over the past decade -- a pace the can be improved through more foreign investment, he said.

India, rather than looking to Britain and the EU for a helping hand, as it might have done a decade ago, comes to this week's talks seeking ways they can work together to boost business and increase prosperity on all sides.

"There is a clear attitude change toward India, which is reflected in Britain treating India as an equal partner," said Charan Wadhwa, a trade analyst at Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.

"There is a realization that India has arrived on the scene," Wadhwa said.

New Delhi is eager for European expertise and investment in its infrastructure and in gaining access to clean energy supplies, two areas analysts see as crucial to keeping its strong growth on track.

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