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No Wembley-style address by PM Modi in Britain this April

Attended by over 60,000 people, the Wembley address is considered one of Modi’s major outreaches to the large Indian diaspora in Britain.

world Updated: Mar 11, 2018 22:51 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Prime Minister Narendra Modi,Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,Wembley stadium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Britain to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is scheduled from April 16-20.(PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his April visit to Britain, will not be able to repeat his diaspora address at the Wembley stadium he gave in November 2015, but is likely to speak at a smaller event for a selected audience.

Over 50 heads of government will be in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) from April 16 to 20.

Attended by over 60,000 people, the Wembley address is considered one of Modi’s major outreaches to the large Indian diaspora in Britain, but such an event has been ruled out this time round due to security concerns for the CHOGM.

The stadium is also unavailable since it is the home ground for Tottenham Hotspur for the current football season.

The O2 Arena in southeast London was considered as an alternative venue, but it has also been ruled out due to security concerns, according to individuals involved in planning Modi’s visit. However, a scaled down event for BJP supporters and the business community is being planned.

There are increased concerns around Modi’s visit due to the likelihood of protests by various groups, which held demonstrations outside Downing Street and Parliament Square during his last visit hosted by then prime minister David Cameron.

Besides attending the CHOGM, Modi is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May, when a memorandum of understanding on the speedier return of illegal Indians in the UK will be signed, among other instruments.

Indian quarters believe the MoU will set the stage for London considering easier visa norms, on the lines of those extended to Chinese, but an announcement during the visit may be confined to Indian business travellers being included in the Registered Travellers service that enables speedier entry at airports and ports.

Adopting a distinct pro-India approach as Conservative leader and later as prime minister, Cameron had exerted to make Modi’s 2015 visit a success. May’s ministers insist that the “Cameron doctrine” on India remains alive and that there has been no “loosening” of ties after Cameron resigned in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

First Published: Mar 11, 2018 22:48 IST