(AFP) – British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday there was a “world of opportunities” for post-Brexit Britain in India, as she donned a saree during a temple charm offensive in Bangalore.
May said that Britain would not need to ease visa restrictions — a key demand from Delhi, but a contentious domestic issue — in order to reach a trade deal with India once her country has left the European Union.
“Leaving the European Union presents us with a world of opportunities and I’m determined to seize on them and that’s why I’m here in India,” May told the BBC in Bangalore, adding that one billion pounds worth of deals have been signed during her two-day visit.
Fending off suggestions that visa concessions would be necessary to reach a deal, May said: “What I’ve heard here from businesses is that they see the UK as an attractive place to do business.”
The first day of May’s visit — her first bilateral trip outside Europe since taking office — was overshadowed by the visa issue, but the prime minister was on a charm offensive as she arrived in India’s tech hub, wearing a gold and green saree as she visited the Someshwara Temple.
She was joined at the temple by Hindu priests who presented her with fruit, a flower garland and a piece to silk to give as an offering to the Hindu deity Lord Shiva.
Accompanied by a delegation of around three dozen business leaders, May also met with local start-up entrepreneurs and visited a factory run by Dynamatic Technologies, which operates two facilities in Britain.
Earlier in the day, she was met by hundreds of excited flag-wearing children at a local primary school and watched a flypast by the Indian Air Force.
After meeting with her counterpart Narendra Modi on Monday, May said Britain would not “turn its back on the world” after leaving the EU but emphasised that new economic relationships had to benefit all sides.
Delhi has pushed for an easing of restrictions on students wanting to stay on in Britain after completing university courses, but May said there was already a “good system” in place, offering just small concessions for business travellers.
May, who earned a reputation for being tough on immigration as Britain’s interior minister, will likely stand her ground on visas with anger at levels of immigration a crucial factor in the outcome of the June “Brexit” referendum.