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Here's What To Expect From The Indian PM's Visit To London

Big Indian celebrations and trade deal talks, minimal focus on human rights.

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Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is in London this week for talks with David Cameron.

Stefan Rousseau / PA WIRE

The British prime minister and his Indian counterpart met in New York at a UN summit in September.

This is the first time Modi has visited since the UK ended a boycott on the Indian prime minister in 2012. The boycott and de facto travel ban began in 2002 after anti-Muslim riots left more than a thousand dead in Gujurat when Modi was the western state's chief minister.

Modi, a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), was also accused at the time of stoking religious tension.

The timing of the visit this week may come as a welcome relief for Modi, who has been suffering politically in recent weeks. Despite weeks of heavy campaigning, his party failed to secure a victory in the Bihar state election.

Artists and novelists have also given back national awards after right-wing groups carried out attacks on intellectuals since the BJP came to power last year.

Writing in the Indian Express, novelist Arundhati Roy said people from minority backgrounds – such as Christians, Muslims, and those seen to be from low-caste communities – were "being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come".


Last weekend, a group called Awaaz launched a Modi Not Welcome campaign by projecting a massive banner on to parliament (above).

A spokesperson for the group told BuzzFeed News it plans to protest against Modi's human rights record tomorrow at midday outside Downing Street, before talks between Modi and Cameron kick off. It's then planning to hold a rally in Parliament Square.

Modi's government has come under fire for not responding to attacks on minorities. Most recently, he has been criticised for stoking religious tensions through his government's response to the lynching of a Muslim blacksmith by a Hindu mob who accused him of slaughtering a sacred cow. After the blacksmith was dragged from his home and beaten with bricks until he died, Modi's culture minister dismissed his killing as an "accident". As proof the mob weren't targeting the blacksmith, he pointed out that the blacksmith's 17-year-old daughter had not been raped.

Twelve years ago, while Modi was chief minister of Gujarat, three British citizens were burnt alive during riots in India. Six people were accused of burning the tourists but were later acquitted.

But the prime minister's spokesperson remained noncommittal when asked by journalists on Monday if he would bring up the case or whether Modi's human rights record would be raised.

The UK Treasury minister Priti Patel also said that Modi has received a "mandate" to be in the UK. Speaking on Sky News, Patel said: "The riots had happened in Gujurat – which is my home state, and there are over 700,000 Gujuratis in the United Kingdom – back in 2002.

"There were court hearings and that all went through the legal process in India and obviously the British government made representations on behalf of those that were affected as well. But things have moved on and prime minister Modi is now the prime minister, the elected prime minister of India."

The Save the Asian Elephants group has also pointed out that the Conservatives promised to "protect the Asian elephant" in the party's 2015 pre-election manifesto. Despite this, the Asian elephant population has continued to decline as a result of a process whereby young elephants are isolated from the rest of their herd and then used for tourism purposes.

It is unlikely any criticism on this front will be brought up during the talks.

3. The emphasis will be on improving trade relations between the two nations.

For Cameron and UK chancellor George Osborne, recent official visits have been all about trade deals, and this one will not be any different.

For its part, the pro-business Confederation of British Industry has called on deals to be made in the manufacturing, services, and IT sector to encourage growth in the UK economy. It also pointed out that in a recent report it published with PwC, the UK is the single largest G20 investor into India, with 9% of all foreign investment int he country coming from the UK.

But Downing Street has insisted that investment between the countries is two-way, and that India invests more into the UK than it does into the rest of the EU combined. Cameron is expected to announce that UK companies are likely to make deals in India to train more workers and create new markets for British companies.

No. 10 has released some information about the deals that should be expected:

• Plans for the UK to become a centre of offshore Rupee bonds – with Indian companies expected to announce the intention to issue debt denominated in their own currency in London
• A partnership to develop three 'smart cities' in India – delivering UK expertise to India and bringing opportunities to UK firms
• UK to lend expertise to Indian efforts to leverage private sector infrastructure investment and increase ease of doing business


Seventy thousand people have been invited to attend a special event at Wembley Stadium on Friday to welcome Modi to the UK. Other invitations were handed outside, by the stadium itself, whereas others were chosen by application.

It is expected that MPs, business leaders, and celebrity British Indians will be present, and David Cameron has also been invited to the event.

5. This event should actually be quite fun.

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The event, set to be the largest community reception for any foreign leader to the UK, will be a festival of Indian culture. Before Modi comes on to speak, there will be a series of British-Indian talents on show.

Keerti Mathur, who's helping to organise the event, said: "We have a fantastic line-up for the cultural programme, showcasing the very best of UK and Indian talent; collaborating music, dance, theatre and culture from both nations in a way that has never been done before."

A song (above) has been released beforehand by Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor and will be sung live at Wembley tomorrow night.

Also be prepared to see a lot of people dressing up like Modi. In the run-up to his visit, Indian fashion stores in Wembley were flooded with people as they advertised the chance to buy their own Modi-style waistcoats on sale. Yes, Modi chic is a thing.

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Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at

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