NEW DELHI: In November 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a rock-star like reception in London — the upbeat mood was palpable as he addressed the roaring crowd of over 60,000 people in Wembley stadium. This year, the mood was far more subdued.
Modi arrived in London Wednesday on a bilateral visit and to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Thursday and Friday. After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and some other events, he answered questions in a televised event held in the hallowed premises of Westminster.
While the event was on, an Indian flag in nearby Parliament Square was torn down, burnt and replaced with flags representing Khalistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as the London Metropolitan Police stood and watched. Following strong protests by the Indian High Commission, the British government apologised, replaced the flag, and pledged to take action against the perpetrators.
But an Indian official in London privately lamented that the perpetrators, who were identified from CCTV footage as a Pakistani pro-Khalistani activist and one Kashmiri from PoK (who now lives in London) were “unlikely to get more than a mild rap on the knuckles and an apologetic warning, if that.”
According to him, most of the protesters were activists of the pro-Khalistani Sikh Federation UK, a group called “Minorities Against Modi” led by Pakistani-origin peer Nazir Ahmed, and some Kashmiri separatist groups. He also “reluctantly” admitted that Modi’s session at Westminster was a “far cry” from the Wembley event of 2015.
“That time, the mood was very different. This year, it was far more somber,” he said.
Queen hints Charles as next CWG head
Queen Elizabeth II made her first direct intervention into a succession plan for the Commonwealth, indicating that she would like Prince Charles to take over as the Head of the 53-member organisation. Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth, opened the summit for what may be the last time. In her opening speech at CHOGM meeting, she described the group as “growing stronger year by year”. (PTI)