‘People-to-people ties get a boost’
Revival of CEO forum, signing of MoUs will hopefully change the equation, says U.K. Minister
LONDON: “People-to-people ties,” especially those between British Indians and Indians have been strengthened as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.K., says UK’s Minister of Employment Priti Patel.
Ms. Patel, who accompanied British PM David Cameron and Mr. Modi to the Wembley diaspora event that saw a crowd of 40,000, is the first woman of Indian origin in the British Cabinet. She was elected a member of parliament in 2010, and has been working on diaspora issues for the 1.5-million- strong community.
Speaking to The Hindu shortly after Mr. Modi addressed the gathering, Ms. Patel said the welcome Mr. Modi received was “phenomenal.” “I think the big takeaway of the visit is people-to-people ties. My PM is acutely aware of the strength of the Indian diaspora community, their success and contribution. That is what binds our two countries together, and I think the success of our two peoples will lead to success in our economic relationship as well,” Ms. Patel said.
She said the 3-day visit of Mr. Modi had built a new “closeness” between him and Mr. Cameron as the two leaders spent much of the time together, attending Parliament, business events and the Wembley event together, and long conversations at ‘Chequers,’ the official retreat, where the PM stayed overnight. Asked if the personal equation between the PMs and the emphasis on the diaspora had sidelined more substantive bilateral issues, Ms. Patel emphatically denied it, making it clear that the new economic partnership between the two countries cannot happen “overnight.” Trade between India and the UK has been dipping since 2011, mainly over regulation and taxation issues, and it has been hoped that the revival of the India-UK CEO Forum announced during Mr. Modi’s visit as well as 28 MoUs worth about $13.6 billion will change the equation when they come to fruition.
British media line faulted
“I am afraid the media looks at everything in a very binary way, that it is either a trade deal here or a deal there, and forget about the people side of it all,” Ms. Patel said.
She was most critical of the way the British press had portrayed Mr. Modi’s visit, with most of them focusing more on the previous non-engagement with Mr. Modi after the 2002 Gujarat riots, than on the bilateral agreements. “I don’t think they actually understand the new India, and they have missed out on the real depth and real substance of the visit. I think they have failed to understand that India has really moved on (from Mr. Modi’s past), and trivialised the voice and strength of the British Indian community as well,” she said, also accusing the British media of “ignoring” the diaspora’s wishes in its criticism of Mr. Cameron’s invitation to Mr. Modi.
Ambedkar memorial inaugurated
PTI reports: Mr. Modi inaugurated a memorial here dedicated to B.R. Ambedkar two months after India acquired the bungalow where the Dalit icon lived as a student in the 1920s.
Mr. Modi visited the house where Ambedkar lived in 1921-22 during his student days at the London School of Economics and said his message of equality and justice continued to resonate.