Modi arrives in London for Commonwealth event, to meet UK PM and the Queen

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s has a packed schedule on Wednesday as he is slated to meet UK PM Theresa May, the Queen, young CEOs and tech innovators, as well as address a diaspora event.

world Updated: Apr 18, 2018 12:28 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Narendra Modi in London,Modi in London,CHOGM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted with UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson after his arrival in London on early on Wednesday morning. (PMO/Twiitter)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in London on Tuesday night to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) as he looks to enhance India’s role in multilateral organisations.

Modi, who is on his second official visit to Britain, was received by foreign secretary Boris Johnson. He will have a full day of bilateral meetings with the Theresa May government on Wednesday, before attending CHOGM sessions in London and Windsor on April 19 and 20.

Modi’s presence for the 25th CHOGM is significant – he is the first Indian prime minister to attend in nearly a decade; former vice-president Hamid Ansari represented India in 2011 and 2015 while former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid attended the 2013 meeting.

Secondly, Modi’s attendance marks a nuanced shift in the ways in which New Delhi views the 53-member Commonwealth, which has long been seen by policy-makers as a relic of the British Empire and an organisation steeped in colonial overtones.

“Modi’s government is beginning to take a new political interest...This is being shaped through the lowering of the rhetoric of the Commonwealth as an institution with a colonial legacy and the raising ofIndia’sprospective leadership role,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“India has clear opportunities to enhance its global role and maximise its bilateral relations within the multilateral framework of the Commonwealth. At the same time, it will seek to focus on enhancing trade and investment in a multilateral Commonwealth-wide context”, he added.

A busy Wednesday

Modi’s engagements on Wednesday will begin in the morning with a handshake with May, standing in front of 10 Downing Street’s iconic door, followed by bilateral meetings. Several memoranda of understanding are due to be signed.

One of them will be on renewing the MoU that lapsed in 2014 on the framework and process to identify and return illegal Indians in the United Kingdom. May has often flagged this as a major issue, linking it to any improvement in the UK visa offer to Indians.

A senior Indian official said, “We are happy to accept those who are identified as Indians after a verification process. The ball will now be in their court; we hope Britain will extend similar longer and cheaper visa facilities to Indians that they offer the Chinese.”

Modi will then visit the Science Museum, where an exhibition titled ‘Illuminating India’ on the country’s historical and contemporary contribution to science, technology and mathematics has been drawing many visitors. He will be joined by Prince Charles, who is likely to arrive at the venue in a new vehicle designed by the Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover.

Modi’s engagements also include paying respects before the statue of 12th century philosopher and social reformer Basaveshwara. Installed by the Basaveshwara Foundation chaired by former Lambeth mayor Neeraj Patil, the statue was inaugurated by Modi during his 2015 visit.

“We will also be launching the Ayurvedic Center of Excellence; the All India Institute of Ayurveda is going to sign an MoU with the College of Medicine, UK. In the afternoon, there will be a series of events at the Francis Crick Institute where again Modi and May will meet,” the official said.

“We will be meeting Indian scientists who are working on cancer research, who are working on malaria and other tropical diseases. We will also have the CEOs forum where we will meet CEOs of both countries. Overall, we already have a mature relationship with the UK,” the official added.

An India-UK Tech Alliance is likely to be announced, comprising young CEOs from both countries who have done exceptionally well in the technology sector. Modi is also scheduled to meet young Indian innovators who received funding from the UK.

The Prime Minister will then travel to Buckingham Palace in the mid-afternoon for an audience with Queen Elizabeth, 91, who officials said had sent a warm personal letter to Modi through Prince Charles, inviting him to CHOGM.

Later, a diaspora event called ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Sath’ will feature Modi answering questions posed by Indians from across the globe. The event in Central Hall Westminster will be attended by about 1600 selected guests and will be telecast live around prime time in India (2100 local time).

In the evening, Modi will join other Commonwealth leaders at a banquet hosted by Prime Minister May.

Wednesday will also see a raft of pro and anti-India protests, demonstrations and flash-mobs by various groups, including the South Asia Solidarity Group and Caste Watch UK. Customised vans with large images and slogans have been moving around central London with messages opposing and welcoming Modi.

A group of Indian-origin women have announced a silent protest against recent incidents rape in India. Prime Minister of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir Raja Faroooq Haider reportedly arrived in London to lead a rally against alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

First Published: Apr 18, 2018 07:52 IST