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British deputy PM meets Modi in bid to strengthen economic ties

Britain's deputy premier Nick Clegg held talks on Monday (Aug 25) with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in the latest effort to strengthen economic ties with the world's largest democracy.

NEW DELHI: Britain's deputy premier Nick Clegg held talks on Monday (Aug 25) with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in the latest effort to strengthen economic ties with the world's largest democracy.

Clegg, who heads a 40-strong business delegation, also met with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the capital during the three-day visit to drum up trade with India. Clegg said he discussed "economic and commercial pacts" during talks with Modi, along with a landmark global trade deal that India scuttled at the 11th hour last month.

"A lot of attention to economic and commercial pacts, raising both individual company specific issues and discussion of the WTO trade facilitation agreement," Clegg told a business conference of his meetings with the Indian leaders.

India was criticised last month for refusing to ratify a long-sought trade deal at the WTO to streamline customs procedures and boost global commerce. "(I also tried to get a) clearer understanding from Jaitley and PM Modi about exactly what are the key reforms they are seeking to undertake," Clegg added.

Hindu nationalist Modi and his right-wing government swept to power at May elections on a pledge to reform and revive India's ailing economy, including attracting more foreign investment.

Since Modi's election, a string of foreign leaders have visited India in the hope of securing trade deals, including then British foreign secretary William Hague last month. Britain was among the first Western countries to end its boycott of Modi over anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat when he was chief minister in 2002.

Modi has denied any wrongdoing over the violence that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. "In my meeting with PM Modi, it was our shared view that economic growth and environmental stability must go hand in hand," said Clegg, who travels to Mumbai on Tuesday. "(I was) very struck and inspired actually to see the passion with which PM Modi spoke," he said.

Clegg earlier Monday laid a wreath at the India Gate war memorial in Delhi and met with students at Delhi University benefiting from an India-UK education initiative. British retail, aerospace and education businesses are expected to sign deals and explore opportunities with Indian counterparts during the trip.