Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed to Britain with a military ceremony Thursday for a visit in which he will address Parliament, lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and sign billions in business deals.
Although it’s not a state visit -- since Modi is not a head of state -- the PM 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.
After the welcome by an honour guard of Scots Guards, Modi was holding talks at Downing St. with Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the visit “a historic opportunity.”
Reached London. India-UK ties will receive a great impetus. Will attend a wide range of programmes in UK. pic.twitter.com/qWIb3jNFBC— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 12, 2015
The Twitter handle of the British PM tweeted a video of the Indian community in UK welcoming the Modi.
Modi was given a Guard of Honour at Treasury Quadrangle, Kings Charles Street, before being officially welcomed by his Britain counterpart Cameron.
India and Britain will sign a number of pacts on mutual investments and defence cooperation during the PM’s visit .
Modi’s visit to Britain is the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister in nine years after Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2006. Singh visited Britain in 2009 to attend the G-20 summit.
The Prime Minister’s agenda includes a brief stop to pay tributes at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square, followed by speeches at the Houses of Parliament and then at the Guildhall in the financial hub of London, a CEOs round-table which is likely to include representatives from major British companies like Rolls-Royce and Vodafone.
Modi will also attend a sit down lunch with Queen Elizabeth II ahead of his mega diaspora address at the Wembley Stadium in north London.
On Saturday, the PM will inaugurate a new statue of 12th Century philosopher Basaveshwara as well as a new Ambedkar memorial in London.
A visit to the Tata Motors’ owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) factory in Solihull, in the West Midlands region of England, will be the last item on his UK agenda.
On way to Britain, the PM called Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and congratulated her on her electoral victory, tweeted spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs.
Diplomacy aboard Air India 1! PM called Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, congratulated her on her electoral victory and invited her to visit India— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) November 12, 2015
Meanwhile, 200 writers – including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Hari Kunzru – have urged British Prime Minister David Cameron to raise issues of freedom of expression and intolerance with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
In the open letter coordinated by PEN International , an association of writers across the world, they said: “As writers and writers’ organisations committed to protecting and defending freedom of expression around the world, we, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence towards critical voices who challenge orthodoxy or fundamentalism in India.”
Intelligence agencies have also alerted the government that radical Sikh outfits are planning to hold massive protests during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.
An intelligence report reviewed by HT says Khalistani groups in the UK are planning to hold protests at venues like Wembley Stadium (where Modi is going to address the Indian diaspora), the Hindu temple, airport, 10 Downing Street (the residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron), Parliament Square, Indian high commission and outside the hotel where PM Modi would stay.
(With inputs from agencies)