Narendra Modi’s U.K. visit in April signals new goals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting UK in April. Preparations are on to give him a rousing welcome. This poster was put up by Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK) during Modi’s 2015 visit to UK Photo courtesy Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK)

‘Bharat ki baat, sabke saath’ event on April 18

NEW DELHI (TIP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to the U.K. in less than three years is due to take place in April, with a community event in central London planned alongside bilateral engagements, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

A publicity campaign for the ‘Bharat ki baat, sabke saath’ event on April 18 kicked off on Wednesday, March 28. “A unique niche event… it will be a one of its kind live interactive conversation,” tweeted the BJP’s Vijay Chauthaiwale.

The event will be held in central London, as against the Wembley Stadium, where Mr. Modi addressed a gathering of around 60,000 people, and will be a smaller affair, with around 1,500 to 2,000 people.

Within the first hours of the website for free registration going live, the number of registrations had already exceeded this figure.

The planned format highlights the different tone of the current visit and the audience Mr. Modi hopes to focus on — while the Wembley event was pitched very much as a “diaspora” event, with community performances — the April event is targeted at a more global audience, matching the aspirations of the visit, which is pegged around the ambitions of taking the Commonwealth to a new level. India’s active engagement is seen as key to the revival of the Commonwealth during the heads of government meeting on April 19 and 20, and the preceding Commonwealth Business Forum.

Visiting London earlier this year, Suresh Prabhu touted the leadership role that India could adopt in the organization.

However, others are hopeful the visit will also provide an opportunity for the U.K. government to express concerns over a number of developments in India. Earlier this month Foreign Office Minister Mark Field, responding to a debate in the House of Commons Westminster Hall, during which MPs expressed concerns, said the government would raise the issue of the treatment of Christian and Sikh minorities in India in the “appropriate manner” during CHOGM to ensure that Parliament’s voice was “properly heard.”

“He will appreciate that diplomacy sometimes needs to be done behind closed doors, rather than with megaphones,” he told MPs.

With the government of Theresa May touting a free trade deal with India as one of the ambitions of a “global” post-Brexit Britain, the visit will be a crucial, though sensitive one for the UK.

Earlier this year Britain and India agreed to the terms of a memo on the swift return of Indian illegal immigrants from the U.K. – an issue that has repeatedly been raised by the British government and seen as an obstacle to immigration reform on the British side.

India’s action will park the ball back in Britain’s court and strengthen calls for change from the U.K. when it comes to immigration and visa issues, particularly for business travelers, students and those in professional services.

Protests and rallies are also expected to take place, as they did during Mr. Modi’s last visit. The Sikh Federation, U.K. said it expected large numbers to turn out for a protest rally during the visit. The protest will raise issues including the detention of U.K. citizen Jagtar Singh Johal by Indian authorities last year.

(Source: The Hindu)

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