Narendra Modi arrived in Britain on Thursday to discuss a number of valuable trade deals, but was met by a crowd of protesters angry at the treatment of minorities in India.
The visit is the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has been to London in over 10 years, as the nation has favored relationships with other countries instead of Britain. However British officials are hoping to regain some influence over India and sign trade deals worth billions of dollars, writes Lisa Barrington for Reuters.
Trade talks overshadowed by protests
Modi is expected to buy 20 BAE Systems Hawk trainer aircraft, which would be built in Bengaluru. He is trying to drive further investment and growth in India following his Hindu nationalist party’s defeat in Bihar state elections on Sunday.
It is thought that trade deals worth 8-12 billion pounds are on the table, which offer benefits to both India and the UK. British PM David Cameron has tried to foster closer ties, even visiting India three times since his election in 2010, and these talks offer a chance to profit from a rapidly growing economy.
The visit has so far been overshadowed by protests from members of the Indian diaspora angry at the Modi government’s treatment of minorities. “Our main concern is that minorities are not safe in India,” said Sikh protester Kuldip Singh.
Modi stands accused of presiding over a period of increased intolerance, with protesters waving placards reading “Modi you are killing Indian democracy” and “Stop religious persecution in India.”
Indian government accused of human rights abuses
India’s human rights record could be put up for debate in Parliament following the signing of a motion by 45 MPs, including Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. That did not stop Modi receiving a grand welcome from government, including a guard of honor. He was also scheduled to lunch with Queen Elizabeth.
Modi will address a mass rally at the United Kingdom‘s national stadium on Friday, which will be attended by around 60,000 supporters. However a large group of activists made up of Sikhs, Kashmiris and Indian Christians will be protesting outside the event.
A spokesperson for an organization known as Dal Khalsa told London24: “We have joined as Sikhs, Kashmiris and Christians to have a united front against Modi and his ideology. We are protesting against Hindu fascism, known as Hindutva. It is inspired by pure race ideology and all minorities are being oppressed by it under Modi. We are being forced to do certain rituals and to be subservient to the majority.”
Patchy human rights record leaves Modi open to criticism
Modi is accused of doing nothing to prevent the rise of Hindu extremism which seeks to impose its beliefs on other ethnic groups. However there are millions of Indians who support his rule, including those who will attend the rally in Wembley stadium.
Siddhesh Govind Kabe, who plans to attend, said of Modi: “He is the coolest thing to happen to India since independence. A proactive PM better than the previous 40 years of corrupt, unimaginative and reactive government.”
India is divided in its opinion of Modi and he is also a polarizing figure internationally. The UK government refused to do business with him following race riots in the Gujurat province which left hundreds of Muslims dead. Modi was chief minister of the province at the time and human rights organization Amnesty UK is pressurizing David Cameron to “raise some human rights concerns” during Modi’s visit.