Prime Minister Narendra Modi said diversity was India’s pride as he received a rockstar welcome on Friday at Britain’s biggest stadium, packed with around 60,000 people chanting ‘Modi, Modi’ while waving the tricolour.
Members of the UK’s Indian diaspora wore Modi masks and chanted slogans between blasts of pop music that had the crowd dancing in the aisles of Wembley Stadium.
The newfound camaraderie between Modi and British PM David Cameron was on full display during the spectacle of dance and music at the iconic Wembley Stadium, with the British Prime Minister endorsing his Indian counterpart’s oft-quoted slogan of “acche din”.
Modi was introduced by Cameron as the crowd roared at one of Britain’s most famous sporting venues. “Prime Minister Modi said ‘acche din aanewale hain’, I say ‘acche din zaroor aaiyega’,” he said to thunderous applause.
“It won’t be long before there is a British-Indian Prime Minister in 10, Downing Street,” Cameron said . “They said a ‘chaiwala’ will never govern world’s biggest democracy, but here he is.”
Modi received a standing ovation as he began addressing the crowd. “There is no reason for India to remain a poor country,” he said to cheers of approval.
He described Cameron as a “friend of India” whose warm welcome made him feel at home. “It’s a historic day for the two great democracies,” he said.
Performers at the gala included singer Kanika Kapoor and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Besides pop star Jay Sean and hitmaker ‘Baby Doll’ singer Kapoor, several classical, folk art and contemporary music performances were also part of the show.
Modi, who earlier had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on the second day of his UK visit, said: “The world sees India as a land of opportunities. And we will make sure that our nation stands shoulder to shoulder with the world.” “India is full of youth, there is no reason for us to remain poor,” the PM said. He said much water had flowed down the Thames since his last visit 12 years ago.
“India is full of diversity. This diversity is our pride and it is our strength. Diversity is the speciality of India.”
“If Sufism had been allowed to have more influence on Islam, no one would have ever taken up a gun in their hands,” he said. Kabir and Rahim have been inspirations for India and the Sufi tradition is the best antidote for terrorism, Modi added.
Emphasising that the two main challenges facing the world were terrorism and global warming, Modi called for collective responsibility to tackle them.
“There are two major issues that leaders of all countries are worried about. The first is terrorism and the second is global warming. Whether it be terrorism or global warming, to save humanity is the responsibility of every country, every citizen of the world,” he said.
Prime Minister Modi said India can show the world the path to fight both terrorism and global warming.
“We are already on that path and we will stick to it. Mahatma Gandhi’s life, his teachings, his non-violence philosophy has so much power that we can find the way to counter terrorism and global warming because Gandhi was that foresighted,” he added.
Prime Minister Modi said India does not want sympathy but equality from the world.
“We no longer want sympathy from the world, we want equality. And I can say after 18 months of experience that today whoever speaks to India, speaks as an equal. If they want to associate then with a win-win formula, if they want to advance then shoulder to shoulder and this to me is the sign of a bright future,” he added.
“The pace and direction of progress in India is such that the fruits of development will be seen very soon,” Modi said.
Modi also announced a direct flight between London and Ahmedabad from December this year. “From December 15, there will be direct flights between London and Ahmedabad,” Modi said in his much-awaited address to 60,000 wildly cheering British Indians at the iconic Wembley Stadium.
The PM said the process of applying and getting the overseas citizen of India (OCI) status would be simplified.
Cameron endorsed India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. “Team India, Team UK, together we are a winning combination,” he said.
Indian pop and Hindi playback singer Alisha Chinai also performed as people waited for Modi’s address. Chinai performed her evergreen single “Made in India” from the album by the same name as the cultural programme ahead of Modi’s speech kicked off in an electric atmosphere.
The crowd at the “UK Welcomes Modi” event was an estimated three times bigger than the one that turned up for his high-profile speech at the Madison Square Garden in New York last year. Attendees were brought in from around Britain in a fleet of shuttle buses dubbed the “Modi Express”.
The colourful pageant, which included a huge firework display, was held in a carnival atmosphere and capped a busy day on which Modi pitched India as an investment destination to British companies and had lunch with Queen Elizabeth.
Addressing the India-UK CEO Forum at Downing Street a day after the two sides finalised deals worth £9.2 billion, Modi asked captains of industry to drive the bilateral economic partnership.
He highlighted the many opportunities for British companies to invest in India’s infrastructure, defence and railways and assured them of personal attention for their projects.
India and Britain, he told the roundtable, are “economically made for each other”. He particularly mentioned the potential for public-private partnerships to develop railway stations.
Pitching his “Make in India” campaign, Modi said the focus of this initiative is defence manufacturing, a sector in which he has eased foreign investment norms twice this year.
He was flanked at the talks by Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry, Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, and Bharat Forge chairman Baba Kalyani.
Modi then went to Buckingham Palace for a lunch hosted by Queen Elizabeth II – the first such appointment for any Indian Prime Minister. There were some protests outside the palace gates by climate change campaign group Avaaz.
Clad in a white kurta-pyjama and a maroon Nehru jacket, Modi drove to the palace in a Jaguar – built by Jaguar Land Rover, a subsidiary of India’s Tata Motors. The 89-year-old Queen greeted Modi at the grand entrance of her London palace.