Modi's day out: Indian PM meets Queen Elizabeth

Published November 13, 2015
Queen Elizabeth and Narendra Modi view items from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace, London. —Reuters
Queen Elizabeth and Narendra Modi view items from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace, London. —Reuters
Britain's queen Indian prime minister at Buckingham Palace. —Reuters
Britain's queen Indian prime minister at Buckingham Palace. —Reuters

LONDON: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Queen Elizabeth II on the second day of his high-profile official visit to Britain, as royal officials announced Prince William and his wife Kate will visit India next year.

Modi arrived at Buckingham Palace Friday in a Jaguar — the iconic British car brand owned by India's Tata Motors.

He was having lunch with the queen before getting a tour of the palace collection of art and artifacts.

Later on Friday, Modi will rally thousands of supporters at Wembley Stadium, home to rock concerts and England's national soccer team.

Britain and India have announced major business deals and cultural exchanges during Modi's trip, including an Indian tour for historic British texts such as the Magna Carta and the opening of a Madame Tussauds wax museum in New Delhi.

And on Friday William and Kate's Kensington Palace office said the royal couple would make their first trip to India in spring 2016.

Modi is being treated to full British pomp and ceremony on the three-day visit.

Also read: Britain, India sign over $13.7bn in deals despite protests

On Thursday he was welcomed by ranks of Scots Guards, saw a ceremonial fly-past by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatic team and gave a speech to Parliament before spending the night at Prime Minister David Cameron's country retreat Chequers.

Modi is seeking to restore his authority on the world stage after a defeat for his Hindu nationalist party in populous Bihar state on Sunday. He appealed to business to invest in a more transparent India in a speech at the Guildhall, a historic building in the heart of London's financial district.

Cameron said Modi's visit cemented a “modern, dynamic partnership” between the world's fifth-largest economy - Britain - and India, which will soon rank third.

The two countries have announced 9 billion pounds in business deals, including a 2 billion pound British investment in solar power in India and more than 1 billion pounds' worth of London-issued bonds to fund the expansion of India's rail network and other projects.

Modi, a Hindu nationalist, has also been met by protests from Sikhs, Muslims, human rights groups and others who accuse him of failing to stop growing religious intolerance and violence in India.

Pomp and protests

As Modi and Cameron shook hands for the cameras outside Number 10 Downing Street, a crowd of about 200 protesters could be heard shouting anti-Modi slogans nearby.

“Our main concern is that minorities are not safe in India,” said Sikh protester Kuldip Singh.

The demonstrators held up banners with messages such as “Modi you are killing Indian democracy” and “Stop religious persecution in India”.

Asked about these concerns at his joint news conference with Cameron, Modi said India was a vibrant democracy in which individual rights were guaranteed by the constitution.

“There is something that is deeply entrenched in our culture, in our traditions, which is that of not accepting anything that has to do with intolerance,” he said, adding that violent incidents would not be tolerated.

Critics have accused Modi of remaining silent about incidents such as the recent deaths of four people attacked by Hindus enraged at reports of cows being slaughtered, smuggled or consumed, and the separate shootings of two prominent atheists.

Before his arrival in Britain, more than 200 writers, including Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan, signed an open letter to Cameron urging him to raise concerns about freedom of expression in India during his talks with Modi.

About 45 British members of parliament, including opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, signed a motion to debate India's human rights record.

The British government, however, rolled out the red carpet for Modi, who was greeted in the grand courtyard of the Treasury by a guard of honour wearing ceremonial bearskin headgear.

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