NEW DELHI: Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on Wednesday deftly sidestepped questions by a group of irate students in London asking whether they were denied access to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s televised address in the city because they planned to ask questions on the recent spate of rapes in India.
India’s high commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha, who was part of the briefing by Gokhale on Modi’s meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier in the day, however, urged the students not to pre-judge what the Prime Minister might say.
Gokhale said the meeting between the two Prime Ministers had paved the way for a possible MoU on illegal migrants.“The issue of economic offenders was also raised and this was among a number of consular issues that were raised. I have already covered the issue of mobilising professionals and students and the like. Views were also exchanged on current international and multilateral issues,” Gokhale said. However, he refused to clarify whether the question of specific Indian economic offenders like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi had been raised.
Modi had a breakfast meeting with May on Wednesday, during which he reassured her that Brexit would not dilute bilateral relations between the two nations.Modi was greeted by British foreign secretary Boris Johnson on his arrival in London from Stockholm late on Tuesday, and the two had a brief chat at the airport before Modi left for his hotel.Modi was mobbed by supporters from the Indian Diaspora as well as people protesting against the series of recent rapes in India when he reached Downing Street for his meeting with May. Some held placards which said, “Modi go home” and “we stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed.”
The protesters included members of the left-wing South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG), CasteWatchUK and Kashmiri and Sikh separatists, as well women and child rights activists. The SASG describes Modi as an “avowed fascist and admirer of (Adolf) Hitler,” and accuses him of “overseeing genocidal attacks and mob lynching against religious minorities”.Action for Elephants, an NGO, will hold a rally outside the Indian High Commission on Friday to protest against the “horrific treatment” of temple elephants in India. “India is a ‘republic of fear’. The UK must keep the pressure on Modi” was the headline of an opinion piece in The Guardian on Wednesday.
After the Modi-May meeting, a Downing Street spokesperson said that the two prime ministers discussed various subjects of mutual concern, including terrorism, as well as cooperation on legal matters, which led to speculation that this could expedite the deportation of people like former liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is wanted in India for fraud.Modi expressed happiness over the British decision to join the International Solar Alliance, which he formally launched in New Delhi earlier with French President Emmanuel Macron.
India, UK to ramp up ties in various fields
The Indo-UK joint statement touched upon ways to reinvigorate Commonwealth, and ramp up cooperation in technology, trade, investment and finance, defence and cybersecurity among others. “We are committed to making this a strategic partnership, that spans the globe and the century, seeing our special relationship evolve and improve in coming years,” the joint statement said. “We encourage our business, cultural and intellectual leaders to exploit the millions of interactions that already link India and the UK so that millions more British and Indians exchange and learn, travel, trade and thrive.”