Pomp, protests greet #India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on lavish #UK visit
London,UK (AP + DIPLOMAT.SO) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British counterpart David Cameron vowed on Thursday to use U.K. knowhow and investment to help modernize the world’s largest democracy, as Modi was greeted with official honors and noisy protests.
Although it’s not a state visit — since Modi isn’t a head of state — he is being treated to full British pomp on a trip that comes amid rising troubles for him at home, where economic growth is slowing and political criticism is growing.
A Scots Guards honor guard welcomed Modi before talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing St. Modi also is due to address Parliament, lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and sign billions in business deals with India’s former colonial ruler, now an eager economic suitor.
At a joint news conference, Cameron said relations between the two countries, once “imprisoned by the past,” were now a “modern, dynamic partnership” between the world’s fifth-largest economy — Britain — and India, which will soon rank third.
But there was also criticism of the star treatment for Modi, a Hindu nationalist who has been accused of failing to stop growing religious intolerance and violence in India, including the lynching of Muslims for allegedly eating beef.
Several hundred people, including Muslims, Sikhs, Nepalis and members of women’s groups, protested Thursday outside Downing St., accusing Modi of overseeing the persecution of India’s minorities.
Modi insisted that intolerance was unacceptable in the “land of Gandhi.”
“We do not tolerate such incidents at all,” he said. “We take strong actions.”
Modi is due to address both houses of Britain’s Parliament later Thursday before spending the night at Chequers, the U.K. prime minister’s official country retreat. On Friday, he’ll lunch with the queen and hold a glitzy rally, complete with fireworks, for thousands of supporters at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Cameron said the two countries expected to sign 9 billion pounds’ ($14 billion) worth of commercial deals during Modi’s visit, including a plan for London’s financial district to become a center of offshore Rupee bonds, and U.K.
investment in three Indian “smart cities” — part of a plan to bring 21st-century road and telecoms infrastructure to the vast and underdeveloped country.
“We want to become your No. 1 partner for securing the finance needed for this ambitious plan,” Cameron said.
India and Britain have close, complex ties dating back to Britain’s time as colonial ruler until the mid-20th century. Nowadays, Britain is eager for more access to India’s fast-growing economy and its market of 1.3 billion people.
Following a state visit last month by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Modi’s trip is a sign of the growing economic clout of Asia’s fast-growing economies.
Britain is already the largest investor in India among G-20 countries, and Indian firms have also made major investments in Britain, including Tata Motors’ ownership of automaker Jaguar Land Rover. Modi is to visit a Land Rover factory in central England on this trip.
The Confederation of British Industry, a business group, welcomed Modi’s visit and praised his “business-friendly approach.” But critics said Britain should be wary of the Indian leader’s poor human rights record.
More than 200 writers, including novelists Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Val McDermid, signed a letter expressing concern about what they called “a rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence towards critical voices” in India.
Modi swept to power in 2014 on promises to develop India’s economy and root out the corruption and incompetence that had crippled the previous government. But his BJP party suffered a recent drubbing in an important state election widely seen as a referendum on Modi’s popularity. And India’s economic growth is slowing, although it still outpaces much of the world.
Modi has not always been welcome in London. Britain and the U.S. both barred him after 2002 anti-Muslim riots killed at least 1,000 people in India’s western state of Gujarat, where Modi was then the top official.
Muslim leaders and human rights groups said Modi did little to stop the violence, a charge he denies. India’s Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him for the violence.For more news and stories, join us on Facebook,Twitter , or contact us through our Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org