Prime Minister Narendra Modi left on Thursday for a three-day visit to Britain that will see India and Britain sign a number of pacts on mutual investments and defence cooperation.
Here’s what you can expect in this round of PM Modi’s foreign visit:
Day One: Modi has a hectic schedule during his three-day visit. After arriving in London this afternoon, he will have talks with Cameron at 10 Downing Street. He will address a joint press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) after the bilateral talks.
A brief stop to pay tributes at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square will be followed by speeches at the Houses of Parliament and then at the Guildhall in the financial hub of London.
His talks with Cameron will carry on at the British Prime Minister’s country residence of Chequers in Buckinghamshire, where he is being hosted overnight.
Day Two: On Friday, Modi returns to London for a CEOs round-table which is likely to include representatives from major British companies like Rolls-Royce and Vodafone.
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 before the Prime Minister sits down for lunch with Queen Elizabeth II in the afternoon.
Then comes the much-awaited the mega Diaspora reception Wembley Stadium in north London. About 60,000 British Indians are expected to attend the function.
Day Three: On Saturday, he will inaugurate a new statue of 12th century philosopher Basaveshwara as well as a new Ambedkar memorial in London. The last item will be a visit to the Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) factory in Solihull, in the West Midlands region of England.
Then he will leave for Anakara, Turkey, for the annual G20 summit.
The importance of the visit
First and foremost, it comes after the drubbing the BJP received in the Bihar elections. Modi would want to project the visit as a major success for trade and business. That will be big boost to his image and also a face-saver.
Also, 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.
“Leaving for UK. I am hopeful this visit will strengthen economic ties between India and UK & bring more investment to India. #makeinindia,” he tweeted before starting his three-day visit.
“My visit is aimed at strengthening cooperation with a traditional friend that is not only a major economic partner of India but also one of the leading economic players of the world,” Modi said in a series of pre-departure Facebook posts.
“India and UK are two vibrant democracies, which are proud of their diversity and multicultural societies,” he stated.
“UK is one of the fastest growing G-7 economies and is home to a strong financial services sector… I see immense scope for our economic and trade relations to improve and this will benefit both our economies,” he added.
Trade, trade, trade
According to a report in AFP, investment and trade will be the main focus of the visit. In 2014-15, India-UK trade hit $14 billion.
“Our focus is on how can we work together on challenges facing our countries from economic prosperity to security,” a Downing Street spokeswoman told AFP, adding “nothing is off the table”.
“The main thrust will be on leveraging investors,” said Sreeram Chaulia, Dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs.
“India stands out as a rare beacon and the prime minister will play that up, focus on that really, and say, ‘look, India’s a safe and stable bet’,” Chaulia told AFP.
Mitigating against that message is an ongoing tax dispute between Indian authorities and Britain’s Vodafone that has become a symbol of the problems foreign firms face in doing business in Asia’s third-largest economy.
That will likely feature on the agenda, as will Indian plans to market rupee-denominated “masala bonds” in London.
Defence deals are also on the cards as India undertakes a multi-billion-dollar upgrade of its ageing military hardware.
Among the $15 billion worth of deals reportedly expected to be signed during Modi’s stay is an agreement for Britain’s BAE Systems to sell 20 more Hawk trainer aircraft to India, AFP said.
Modi was not welcome in the UK for a decade after the Gujarat riots of 2002, which resulted in death of thousands of innocent civilians. WSJ has termed the treatment Modi is getting in the UK now as a rehabilitation of Modi. However, there have been protests against Modi’s visit, especially due to the rising intolerance in India after his ascension to power in May 2014. An invitation to speak at the University of Cambridge has reportedly triggered a letter of protest from scholars concerned by those attacks. Moreover, the Awaaz Network projected Modi’s image on the Palace of Westminster in London, with a message “Modi not welcome” in a grim reminder the recent spate of violence and also the 2002 riots.