Corruption allegations overshadow David Cameron’s trade mission to India, despite agreements on cyber-security and nuclear power.
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voiced "serious concerns" to Cameron today over corruption allegations relating to the sale of Westland helicopters to his country's air force by the Anglo-Italian firm, as the two men met for talks in New Delhi.
Singh’s decision to raise the issue overshadowed major agreements on civil nuclear cooperation and cyber-security between the two countries.
Cameron promised to provide any information requested by the Indian authorities, but stressed that the case was for Italian investigators to probe, as AgustaWestland is owned by Italian firm Finmeccanica.
Sitting alongside Cameron following their talks at Hyderabad House today, Singh said: "I ... conveyed to the Prime Minister our very serious concerns regarding allegations about unethical means used in securing the 2010 contract for AgustaWestland helicopters.
"I told him that we have sought an explanation from the company by 22 February to examine if the contractual conditions on unethical practices and the integrity pact have been violated.
"I have sought full assistance from the UK in this case. Prime Minister David Cameron has assured me of the co-operation of his government in the investigation."
India suspended payments under the £480m contract following the arrest last week of Finmeccanica chairman and chief executive Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland chief executive Bruno Spagnolini on corruption and tax fraud charges.
Cameron said: "In terms of AgustaWestland, we will respond to any request for information. I am glad that the Italian authorities are looking into this issue in detail, as Finmeccanica is an Italian company."
Elsewhere in today's talks, Singh and Cameron agreed closer co-operation between the UK and India over cyber-security, which is expected to see the establishment of a joint taskforce to share information on malicious IT attacks from criminal gangs, terrorists and state agents.
And they signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral civil nuclear cooperation. India already has a civil nuclear energy programme delivering 3 per cent of the country's electricity, but over the next 10 years Delhi wants to increase its nuclear generation fivefold.
Today's agreement will facilitate the involvement of UK firms like Rolls-Royce in the development of India's nuclear capacity, by setting out arrangements for the transfer of sensitive technical information.
Both men stressed the importance of developing trade links between the UK and India. Cameron has a target of doubling bilateral trade by 2015, and today said he wanted the accelerating growth in economic links to extend beyond that date.
The PM said he wanted to see "rapid progress" towards the completion of an EU-India free trade agreement.