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UK PM meets Patil; talk on trade, terror
New Delhi, JUL 29 (IANS):
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Published on 29 Jul. 2010 11:52 PM IST
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British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday met President Pratibha Patil and discussed a host of bilateral issues, including trade, counter-terrorism and cultural ties, on the final day of his maiden visit to India after assuming office.
The 43-year-old Cameron, the youngest British Prime Minister in almost 200 years, was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Rahstrapati Bahavan in the morning. He kicked off his official engagements with a meeting with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. They held talks on a spectrum of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, UN reforms, trade ties and civil nuclear cooperation.
Cameron, who began his 48-hour visit to India from Bangalore Tuesday night, has identified three key issues -- business, global security and climate issues -- that, he has stressed, will form the pillars of “a deeper and wider relationship” with India. These issues will be discussed prominently when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds delegation-level talks with Cameron Thursday evening.
A cultural agreement is expected to be signed after the talks. This will be the first such pact with Britain and will entail “sharing of information, organizing events in each other’s countries, exchange of scholars and organizing seminars, exhibitions and performing events”.
In Bangalore, Cameron unleashed a charm offensive and spoke glowingly about Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and iconic cricketer Sachin Tendulkar as among the cultural bonds India and Britain share.
Keeping strong Indian sensitivities on the issue of terror, he warned Pakistan that it should stop “exporting” terror to its neighbourhood. Meanwhile, India and Britain Thursday vowed to further intensify cooperation in combatting terrorism. “There was agreement that terrorism constitutes the single biggest threat to the region and open pluralistic societies like ours. We have agreed to further intensify cooperation in counter-terrorism,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters at the joint press conference with his British counterpart David Cameron. Cameron also stressed that they want to establish the strongest possible security partnership with India.
Kohinoor return ruled out
Visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron has clearly ruled out the return of the Kohinoor diamond to India, saying if such demands were agreed to, it would lead to empty rooms in British Museums.
“I know there is also a great argument about the original provenance of the Kohinoor diamond. I’m afraid this will disappoint viewers, but it’s going to have to stay put,” Cameron said in an interview to NDTV news channel. The issue about the fabled diamond, which was mined in the Deccan and is now part of the British crown jewels, had been raised by British MP of Indian origin Keith Vaz just before Cameron began his two-day visit to India.
Vaz had said in a statement: “I believe that this is the perfect opportunity for the prime minister to discuss the issue of the Kohinoor. It would be very fitting for the Kohinoor to return to the country in which it was mined so soon after the diamond jubilee of the Indian republic and 161 years after its removal from India.”
Cameron, however, pointed out that the return of the diamond would set a precedent, which could lead to the emptying of museums in Britain.
“What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum will be emptied,” he asserted.
Greece has also been vocal about its demand for return of the marble frieze looted from the Parthenon by the Earl of Elgin 200 years ago. India and Britain will be signing a bilateral deal related to culture during Cameron’s visit that ends Thursday.
Jeremy Hunt, the British secretary of state for culture, media and sports, pointed out that Cameron’s trip was “to discuss about cultural exchanges and to create a climate for holding several cultural exchange programmes.”
But he parried a question from IANS on whether Britain was open to exhibiting the Kohinoor in India saying, “it’s a controversial issue and (he) would not like to comment”.

 
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