Modi gets billions in deals in Britain but also protests by Christians and intellectuals

November 19, 2015 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

PersecutionLondon, November 13, 2015: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the United Kingdom today on a three-day visit. During his stay, he will meet with Prime Minister David Cameron, Queen Elizabeth, business leaders and the Indian Diaspora. Deals worth up to £10 (US$ 15.2) billion are expected to be signed.

The visit has sparked some controversy with criticism coming from human rights groups and Christian activities who have called on the British prime minister to raise the issue of religious minority rights and attacks against intellectuals by Hindu nationalists in India.

Narendra Modi is the first Indian prime minister to make an official visit to the United Kingdom in ten years. For his British counterpart, the visit “is an opportunity for two countries, tied by history, people and values, to work together to overcome the biggest challenges of our age”. Likewise, Mr Modi said the aim of the visit was to strengthen “co-operation with a traditional friend”.

The pomp and ceremony attached to the visit is expected to include a special tricolour flypast by the Red Arrows Royal Air Force (RAF) Aerobatic Team over Buckingham Palace. The Indian leader will also address the British parliament, before leaving for the British PM’s country residence, the Chequers.

Given the size of the UK’s Indian community, the summit is closely followed by various observers. For many, the most important meetings will start tomorrow. Up to £10 (US$ 15.2) billion worth of deals are expected to be signed over the course of Modi’s stay.

Some 13 Indian companies employ each more than 1,000 people in the UK. At least 110,000 people work for Indian companies operating in the country, including 65,000 people for Tata Group, which owns Jaguar Land Rover.

Last year, investment from India into the UK jumped by 64 per cent. Some 122 projects are underway, creating 7,730 new UK jobs.

Modi’s visit to the UK comes at a time when India is emerging as perhaps the strongest player among the so-called BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Unlike China, whose economy is stalled, India’s economic performance is stable, with 7 per cent growth a year.

The meeting is also seen by some as a key step to shore up support abroad. The UK is home to almost 1.5 million Indians. For some analysts, Modi’s focus on economics will also distract public opinion back home after his BJP’s debacle in the recent Bihar election.

The trip’s highlight will be a rally at Wembley Stadium where 70,000 people, mostly Indians, are expected to give the Indian leader a great welcome. As many as 55 singers, over 270 dancers, over 155 musicians and a choir of 180 children, all supported by hundreds of community volunteers will also grace the stage, including The Royal Ballet and the London Philharmonic.

The Indian Overseas Congress criticised the mega event. “For foreign nationals, who either have a communal bias or are ignorant about India, to fete Modi when the communal situation in India is highly disturbing and clearly the mood of the country has turned against him, would be an insult to the people of the country,” the Indian Overseas Congress (London) stated in a letter to the Europe India Forum, organisers of the event.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) also criticised Modi’s official visit. In a letter to Mr Cameron, the Christian advocacy group asked him to raise the question of religious freedom for religious minorities, following the violent incident in Dadri that saw a Muslim man lynched by Hindu fundamentalists because they “suspected” he had eaten some beef.

CSW noted that since Modi was elected in May 2014 an estimated 43 people were killed in more than 600 cases of violence against religious minorities.

Last but not least, a group of 200 British writers published an open letter calling on the British prime minister to “remind” Modi of the importance of respecting the democratic freedoms guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

In their appeal, they focus on freedom of expression and express solidarity with the Indian writer who was attacked with ink and more than 40 free thinkers who in protest returned prestigious awards they received.

“[W]e, the undersigned,” reads the letter, “are extremely concerned about the rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence towards critical voices who challenge orthodoxy or fundamentalism in India. [. . .] Without these protections a democratic, peaceful society is not possible.”

– asianews

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