India's Modi meets queen, rallies fans on 2nd day of UK trip

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 12:59 PM
India's Modi meets queen, rallies fans on 2nd day of UK trip

LONDON (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lunched with Queen Elizabeth II and rallied thousands of cheering supporters 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 for lunch Friday in a Jaguar, the iconic British car brand owned by India's Tata Motors — a symbol of the close relationship between India and its former colonial ruler.

Later, Modi was greeted as a celebrity by tens of thousands of supporters waving Indian flags and Union Jacks during a high-energy rally at London's Wembley Stadium — more usually home to rock concerts and England's national soccer team.

He was introduced onstage by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has often been by Modi's side on the trip, a sign of how important Britain considers the visit.

The crowd cheered when Cameron said, "it won't be long before there's a British Indian prime minister in Downing Street."

Modi's ambitious plans to modernize India and his pro-business agenda have won him many fans among the 1.5 million people of Indian origin in Britain.

"In a country that has suffered a lot because of corruption and misadministration, Modi is regarded as someone who is a clean politician and is somebody who delivers," said Manoj Ladwa of the Europe India Forum, which organized the Wembley rally.

But the Hindu nationalist politician 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.

Britain and India have announced major business deals and cultural exchanges during Modi's trip, which ends Saturday, 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 visit to India in spring 2016.

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

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 ($14 billion) 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 swept to power in 2014 on promises to develop India's economy and root out the corruption and incompetence that had crippled the previous government. But he has also been accused of failing to stop attacks on religious minorities, and his BJP party suffered a recent drubbing in an important state election widely seen as a referendum on Modi's popularity.