UK diplomat discusses retail reforms, Lankan Tamils plight with Karunanidhi
British Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai, Mike Nitha Vrianakih, met Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) leader and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi on Monday.
Both are said to have discussed the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the central government's decision to introduce foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Karunanidhi, Vrianakih said: "We discussed a range of subjects, specifically political issues in the state of Tamil Nadu and some national issues like the foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail."
"We talked about some of the regional issues such as the Cauvery water dispute with Karnataka, some of the issues in Dharmapuri and Kudlore district. Karunanidhi gave me some booklets, some reading material," he added.
"He (Karunanidhi) also raised with me the recent visit of some Tamil figures to the UK for Tamil parliamentary discussion and clearly Karunanidhi was interested to talk about the Sri Lankan Tamil issue and so we had a range of very useful discussions and we exchanged opinions and views," said Vrianakih.
The British diploamt also said that the David Cameron-led Government and the global community were keeping a close watch on the political tussle over allowing FDI in the retail sector.
"The issue as a foreign country, with significant interest in India, this is a very important reform measure that the government of India has brought forward, so we are watching this issue with great interest because clearly, depending on what happens, it may have an impact on additional foreign investment," said Vrianakih.
"British companies, just like other international companies are watching the issue very carefully. But it is an issue for the government of India and for this specific state, if it's passed in the Lok Sabha (lower house of the parliament), so we are watching that with huge interest," Vrianakih added.
Most of the initiatives Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced to date have required only an executive order. So, this session of parliament poses the biggest test yet of his reform drive. If he fails to get key allies and the BJP on board, his reformist legislative agenda could stall.
Among the reform bills due to be introduced are measures to allow up to 49 percent foreign investment in local insurance companies and domestic pension funds. Currently, the cap for insurers is at 26 percent and foreign investors are barred from buying into pensions.
The economic bills can be passed in parliament's lower house with the support of two big regional parties - the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) - which are not part of the ruling coalition but often give it support in parliament. However, the SP has previously opposed the pension and insurance bills while the BSP is keeping its cards close to its chest.