NEW DELHI, INDIA—Nick Clegg put domestic party troubles behind him today after touching down in New Delhi for a three-day trade mission to India.
The Deputy Prime Minister followed in the footsteps of David Cameron by donning traditional Indian dress on a visit to a Sikh temple in the city.
It comes amid continuing poll woes for the Lib Dems with barely nine-months to go before the next election. Mr Clegg has also been warned that the party now has a ‘women problem’ after clearing the peer Lord Rennard despite a string of accusations that he groped female activists.
Mr Clegg’s visit is the latest official trade mission to New Delhi, amid a concerted drive by the Coalition to drum up trade between Britain and India.
The Deputy PM held talks with India’s recently-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Clegg wants to capitalise on the new Indian government’s focus on re-energising economic growth – and hopes to sign a number of multi-million pound business deals.
Over three days, the 40-strong delegation, which includes Mr Clegg’s new unpaid India business adviser Lord Dholakia, will meet counterparts in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Senior Government figures have made a series of trips to India since the coalition came to power in 2010 in an effort to create a new ‘special relationship’ and strengthen trade with the emerging economic powerhouse.
Chancellor George Osborne and then-foreign secretary William Hague visited in July, while David Cameron has made three trips to India as Prime Minister.
Mr Clegg’s visit will be the first since Mr Modi was elected in May.
Mr Clegg said: ‘I am delighted to be leading the first trade delegation to India since the election of the new government. Prime Minister Modi has been very clear that his absolute priority is to get the wheels of the Indian economy moving, to create more jobs, boost trade and pursue greater prosperity.
‘There is already £16 billion of trade every year between India and the UK. India invests more in the UK than it does in the rest of the European Union combined, and no country in the G20 invests more in India than Britain does.
‘In addition, there are the historic cultural links. The rich tapestry of British community, business, cultural and sporting life is hugely enriched by our links with India.
‘Thousands of students take part in exchange programmes such as the UK-India education and research initiative, and I look forward to seeing how we can forge even deeper and stronger bonds between our people.’
Energy Secretary Ed Davey meanwhile will travel separately to Hyderabad on Wednesday to build links over energy and climate change.