Prime Minister Narendra Modi today held talks with his UK counterpart David Cameron on as he eyes more British investment to India on his maiden visit during which a “package of deliverables” worth billions of pounds in defence and energy sectors was expected be signed.
Modi, who flew into the British capital on his much- anticipated three-day visit, was accorded a guard of honour by the 48-member F Company Scots guard accompanied by the regimental band of Irish guards.
Cameron came out from his 10 Downing Street to receive Modi before the two leaders headed to the world’s most famous political office for a nearly 90-minute dialogue.
The UK had earlier said there will be a “package of deliverables” announced during Modi’s visit. The commercial and private sector deals rather than government to government deals are said to be worth billions of pounds.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had narrowed down defence and civil nuclear as an area of focus during the visit and also confirmed that the Make in India aspect of the Hawk trainers will be on the cards.
Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon were among senior British Cabinet ministers present during the guard of honour at the Treasury Drum near 10 Downing Street. On the Indian side, Modi was accompanied by a delegation including Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ranjan Mathai.
Ahead of his departure, he had tweeted: “Leaving for UK. I am hopeful this visit will strengthen economic ties between India and UK & bring more investment to India. #makeinindia.”
A brief stop to pay tributes at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square will be followed by speeches at the Houses of Parliament and then at the Guildhall in the financial hub of London.
His talks with Cameron will carry on at the British Prime Minister’s country residence of Chequers in Buckinghamshire, where he is being hosted overnight.
Ahead of Modi’s visit, Jaishankar had said that both sides are likely to sign a number of agreements, including on energy and climate change.
He had said that boosting economic ties will be a major focus area, besides enhancing ties in defence and clean energy sector.
The UK ranks 18th in the list of India’s top 25 trading partners and two-way trade in 2014-15 stood at USD 14.34 billion.
Britain is the third largest inward investor in India, after Mauritius and Singapore, with a cumulative equity investment of USD 22.26 billion between 2000-2015.
The UK ranks first among the G20 and India undertook 122 FDI projects in the country in 2014-15.
In fact, the UK attracts more Indian investment than the rest of the European Union put together.
“It’s an opportunity for two countries, tied by history, people and values, to work together to overcome the biggest challenges of our age,” Cameron said earlier.
Cameron described the visit as “extraordinary”, which is not simply about celebrating the economic ties but “actually building a thoroughly modern partnership between our two great countries”.
Before embarking on formal meetings, Modi met members of the Sikh community.
Cameron’s office also released a video on social media about the 1.5 million-strong Indian community to welcome Modi on his maiden visit to the country.
“Welcome prime minister (Modi). We are so pleased you have come to visit,” said one community member in the beginning of the video uploaded on the official Twitter account of Cameron.
“You will see how important our relationship is with India. There are more than half a million Indian-origin people in the UK… British Indian help make this country great,” according to the video in which members of the Indian community from all walks of life are seen welcoming Modi in the country.
Responding to the post, Modi tweeted: “Thank you @Number10gov. We are very proud of the Indian diaspora in UK. Their role in strengthening India-UK ties is immense.”