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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Narendra Modi, Theresa May talk Mallya, terror in London meet

Theresa May agreed to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against Pakistan-based terror groups and got an assurance from Modi that Britain’s importance to India will not be diluted after Brexit

india Updated: Apr 18, 2018 23:40 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a bilateral meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, April 18, 2018.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a bilateral meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, April 18, 2018. (Reuters)

The extradition of economic offenders such as Vijay Mallya and action against Pakistan-based terror groups topped Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda as Brexit-bound Britain extended him royal treatment ahead of the Commonwealth summit.

During a breakfast meeting with Modi, Prime Minister Theresa May sought to address Brexit-related concerns of Indian firms and investors by saying that their access to European markets will continue till 2020. Modi, in turn, assured May there would be “no dilution in the importance of the UK to India” after it leaves the European Union.

Modi raised the extradition of Indian economic offenders based in Britain, including Mallya, officials said. “The issue of economic offenders was raised and this was among a number of consular issues that were raised,” foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters.

May mentioned the cases of individuals based in India wanted by UK authorities, such as Aman Vyas, accused of killing a woman in Walthamstow in 2009. Both leaders agreed to recognise the independence of the judiciary in their countries.

Extradition is a judicial process in both countries, overseen by a treaty since 1992. Mallya’s extradition hearing is in the closing stage at Westminster Magistrates Court, with the next hearing scheduled for April 27.

The British premier agreed to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against globally proscribed terror groups, including Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen, according to a joint statement issued after the talks.

May apprised Modi of her government’s position on chemical attacks in Syria, and highlighted what she called the “recent destabilising behaviour” of Russia, India’s long-standing ally. Britain blames Russia for the poisoning with a nerve agent of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury in March. Moscow has denied the allegations.

After the hour-long breakfast meeting at 10, Downing Street, a spokesperson for May said: “The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s position on Russia’s recent destabilising behaviour, underlined by the attack in Salisbury and the protection provided for the Syrian regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons against its people.”

However, Russia was not named in the joint statement titled “Shared values, global capability”, which expressed “deepest concern” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for urgent investigations according to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Modi assured May of the UK’s continued importance to India after it leaves the European Union and said Brexit offers opportunities to further increase trade ties.

Indian companies have been using London and the UK as a base to access the European market, a situation that will change after Brexit. There is much uncertainty among the companies, with expansion plans delayed until the situation becomes clearer.

May updated Modi on progress in Brexit-related negotiations with Brussels. The 10, Downing Street spokesperson said May told Modi the implementation period agreed in March for Brexit “gives Indian companies and investors the confidence that market access will continue on current terms until the end of 2020”.

Britain is also keen to forge a free trade agreement with India after exiting the EU, and sees the 53-member Commonwealth as a trading bloc to compensate for some of the anticipated economic loss when it leaves the European Single Market.

Modi said the financial district of London would continue to be of great importance to India to access global markets. The two leaders said bilateral trade had grown strongly over the last year and welcomed the £1 billion of commercial deals agreed on Wednesday.

Total trade in goods and services between the UK and India was $25.5 billion in 2017, a 15% increase over 2016. UK exports to India increased by 14.9%. India was the third largest investor in the UK and the second largest international job creator, with Indian companies having created more than 110,000 jobs. The UK is the second largest G20 investor in India.

The day witnessed noisy demonstrations and flash mobs mobilised by groups supporting and opposing Modi and his government’s policies. The visit figured during the Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons and Modi later addressed the Indian diaspora at an event that was telecast and streamed live.

Modi’s packed schedule included paying respect at a statue of 12th century Lingayat philosopher Basaveshwara, prompting charges it was linked to forthcoming assembly elections in Karnataka. However, organiser Neeraj Patil strongly denied any such connection.

Before a rare audience with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, Modi met Prince Charles at the Science Museum, where an exhibition on India’s contribution over centuries in science, technology and mathematics has been drawing many.

A raft of memoranda of understanding and agreements were signed on different issues, including cyber-security, cleaning the Ganga, organised crime, Ayurveda, and a tech alliance. Britain also joined the India-led International Solar Alliance.

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 17:50 IST

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