November 12, 2015

PM Modi begins UK visit today: Defence, security ties, climate change on table


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to arrive here on Thursday for talks with his British counterpart David Cameron amid indications that the two sides are likely to come up with outcomes on development partnership, defence, security, energy and climate change. Meanwhile, at least three protests have been planned outside 10, Downing Street.
Indian and British government officials here said they are likely to announce three separate outcome documents — on development partnership, defence and security, and energy and climate change. There may also be a vision statement on overall bilateral relations, sources said.
Modi will arrive on Thursday morning and head for talks at 10, Downing Street, followed by an address to the British parliament, before leaving for the British PM’s country residence, the Chequers. On Friday, he will address the CEOs’ Forum, have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II, and address the Indian community at Wembley Stadium. And on Saturday, he will inaugurate B R Ambedkar’s memorial, before leaving for the G-20 summit in Turkey.
The protests planned are on a range of issues — from Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots, Sikh community’s grievances and filmmaker Leslee Udwin on censorship.
That Modi’s visit comes after BJP’s debacle in the recent Bihar elections has been pointed out by the British media in the last few days. However, British officials said they are working on “concrete deliverables”, as an Indian PM is coming to the UK after almost a decade. In the last five years, Cameron has visited India thrice.
“It is time for India to reciprocate Cameron’s impressive outreach to New Delhi. Ever since he came to office five years ago, he has made a serious effort to upgrade India-UK ties. In fact, in his first term, India was at the top of the list of emerging powers which his government decided to court. And they did make a serious effort, only to be snubbed by the then UPA govt. It is one of the reasons why, in Cameron’s second term, China has got pride of place. Remember, in his first term he met the Dalai Lama, leading to strong reaction from Beijing. So now is the time for Modi to reciprocate Cameron’s investment in India,” Harsh V Pant, Professor of International Relations in the Department of Defence Studies, King’s College, London, told The Indian Express. “Where the UK has failed is in articulating a broader strategic vision for its ties with India, and this is related to its failure to view Asia beyond economics and trade. Modi has an opportunity to clarify some of these larger issues when he meets Cameron and to see if there is a convergence between British and Indian world views. Indian diplomats have a tendency to say that the UK is nothing but the 51st state of the US. While it may serve some rhetorical purpose, it is counterproductive to take such a myopic approach. In recent times, there has been a divergence between the US and the UK on a range of issues,” he said.
Pant added that India can leverage British advantages well, since from education, health, culture, infrastructure, science and high-technology to areas such as policing and intelligence, Britain is “still a global leader”.
Striking a cautious tone, Sumantra Bose, Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “At the bilateral level, India’s relationship with Britain is of secondary importance to Indian foreign policy and our global interests. This is because of Britain’s middle-ranking status, in all ways, in global politics…
I think the PM knows this… hence his visit to the UK after one-and-a-half years in office.”
Bose pointed out that Modi’s visit comes just after Xi’s visit. “So the timing of Modi’s visit is good. During Xi’s visit, the UK government engaged in cringe-worthy fawning behaviour in the hope of attracting Chinese investment and funds to the UK. They are unlikely to serenade Modi to quite the same degree, but a warm welcome can still be expected,” he said.
Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the timing was interesting, because it will be compared to Xi’s recent visit, which resulted in headline-grabbing — though likely inflated — figures of $30 bn Chinese investment in the UK.
“The emphasis here will be more evenly balanced between inward and outward investment. Whereas the focus with China was on securing Chinese capital for infrastructure, with India there will also be great emphasis on UK companies’ access to Indian markets. The UK is already the largest investor in India, but the Vodafone issue was a real blow. So there will be a push on tax predictability and transparency, as well as the usual exhortations for market liberalisation in key areas, especially services — given the UK’s comparative advantage. Financial services will be important — and this will include strengthening ties between London and Mumbai,” he said.
Joshi said “the optics will present an intriguing contrast, as the lavishness of the banquets and transport for Xi was seen somewhat wearily here”.


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