INDIA’S prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK, which began today (November 12) will allow British Indian businessmen to benefit from a business bonanza of £10 billion.
Modi and British prime minister David Cameron appear to have arrived independently at the same conclusion – the key to increased bilateral trade is the British Indian business community.
“I see great promise and potential in our relationship,” Modi wrote in an article last weekend. “Britain’s economic resurgence is impressive.”
It is unlikely that his Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat in the Bihar assembly polls will have much effect on his trip, because he comes to the UK not as a party leader but
as the prime minister of India.
There will be anti-Modi demonstrations, to be sure, but people realise what Modi and Cameron are doing is building on the work of previous Indian and British governments.
Modi said: “This is also an exciting moment of optimism in a nation of 1.25 billion people. Just 18 months after an historic mandate, our vision is changing into reality.”
He emphasised: “India’s growth has accelerated to 7.5 per cent per year, the highest in the world for a major economy. It is an enabler to transform the quality of life of our people.”
He suggested how the UK and India could join hands.
“Since the scale of our transformation is vast, the size of the opportunities in India is huge,” he said.
“So, as two innovative societies and vibrant economies, we have unlimited possibilities to build partnerships of prosperity and sustainability – all in the context of a strong political relationship and the comfort of deep familiarity,” he added.
British and Indian sources have said that rather than “one big-ticket item”, several medium-sized contracts will be announced.
The Labour MP Keith Vaz, an influential figure on the UK-India scene, said the visit was hugely important for the British Indian community. They would expect Modi to be given a reception “equal, if not better” than that accorded to Chinese president Xi Jinping on his recent state visit.
At Wembley, Modi is expected to address a crowd of 60,000 for about an hour. Cameron, too, may make a speech of his own.
“It is a defining moment for the British Indian community, which will see the Wembley rally in particular as its coming of age, where it has organised through its own efforts the biggest single event ever to be addressed by a foreign head of government,” he declared.
Modi will have talks at Downing Street and at Chequers, Cameron’s country residence in Buckinghamshire where he will stay overnight.
Much of the “nuts and bolts” work will be done by British and Indian CEOs meeting at Downing Street.
The CBI says the UK is already the biggest investor and employer in India among the G20 economies, with $22.2 billion (£14.7bn) invested since 2000. But the British side is likely to push for the resolution of tax rows between India and international companies – notably Vodafone and Cairn Energy, the oil explorer.
Mark Runacres, chairman of the British Business Group in New Delhi, has been quoted as saying: “Clearly British business will be expecting the British government to have tax matters on
the agenda. But I wouldn’t expect this to tarnish the overall success of the visit.”
Modi is likely to appeal to British Indian businessmen. He said at the weekend that British Indians, “mirroring India’s diversity, constitute an indelible human bond between our two
nations. Britain outranks every country in the world except Singapore and Mauritius for investments in India.
“Indians invest more in Britain than in the rest of the European Union combined.”
Modi will address a business gathering at the Guildhall and parliamentarians in the Robing Room in the Lords, have lunch with the Queen, visit BR Ambedkar’s house and unveil a statue of the 12th century Indian philosopher Basaveshwara. He will also go to the Midlands for a tour of the Jaguar Land Rover plant.
But Wembley Stadium on Friday has been built up as the highlight of his visit.
One of the organisers familiar with his thinking said: “He realises he will be speaking to a global audience. He will urge Indians not to look back which is why we have called the event, Two great nations. One glorious future.”
It is said Modi is aware that this is his chance to lay out India’s economic development, involving a trillion dollars worth of investment in infrastructure, digital advancement and smart
cities, over the next five years.
Speaking after the deal was announced, Wembley Stadium’s head of music and new events Jim Frayling said: “As a multipurpose venue bringing some of the best sport and music events
to the stadium, we are always looking at what new and innovative projects Wembley can be involved in.
“The stadium takes great pride in being located in the culturally diverse London Borough of Brent and we thoroughly look forward to such a prestigious event and hope to work further with the Indian community in the future.”
In all, some 450 “UKWelcomesModi” community groups have been made responsible for issuing the invites for the “ticket only” affair. There will also be a dinner at the end of the evening for 1,000 people.
The pitch is off limits in the stadium, which can hold up to 90,000. The cost of hiring Wembley is put at £2 million but private and corporate sponsors, labelled “diamond” and “gold” supporters, are donating anything from £25,000 to £150,000.
They include companies such as Sun Mark, Tata, Travelex, Lyca Mobile and Airtel in the first category, and State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Austrian Anadi Bank in the second.
There will be a cultural function on Friday, involving the London Philharmonic Orchestra and 300 children. A song has been penned by Piyush Pandey and will be sung by Kanika Kapoor, and Jay Sean will perform.