The start of direct flights between Ahmedabad and London, simplification of the rule governing Overseas Citizens of India and Persons of Indian Origin, and tackling concerns of the Sikh community in the UK, were among the announcements and pledges made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event at Wembley stadium on Friday evening, ending the second day of his brief but intensive trip to the UK.
In an hour-and-a-half long speech in Hindi, punctuated by applause from the 35,000-odd crowd that had gathered for the event, Modi covered an extensive range of topics – from the government’s ambitions to introduce electricity to some 18,000 villages in the next few years, to the Clean India campaign, and plans to make India a leader in the field of solar and renewable energy.
Recalling the last time he had visited Britain in 2003, as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he told the audience that India was now moving on a journey to “development and progress”.“Our country is a wonder for the world,” he said, adding that he wanted India to be “free of the problems it had faced in the past”, to become a “strong” and “modern” country. “That is absolutely essential.”
‘Great in Great Britain’
Prime Minister David Cameron said that British Indians had helped put the “Great in Great Britain,” and that it wouldn’t be long before there was a British Indian Prime Minister in Downing Street.Around 450 community organisations from across the UK, had joined efforts to organise and raise funds for the ‘UK Welcomes Modi’ event organised by Europe India Forum, a non-profit organisation based in London.
Numbers were, however, somewhat lower than the 60,000 expected to attend the event, that began mid afternoon in London, with performances ranging from Alisha Chinai to yoga sequences, and rap artist Jay Sean, culminating in a firework display after Modi walked round the edge of the grounds, waving to the crowds.
While many who attended were avid fans of Modi – such as Tushar – a 30-year-old Maharashtrian Londoner who said he came because he viewed Modi as the first “true leader” India had had in decades, others such as Vijay Kumar from Glasgow, said they had come simply to “support India”, rather than a particularly party or leader.The event took place amid tight security, and followed a day in which Modi held further talks with Cameron, this time at the Prime Minister’s official country residence, Chequers, followed by the UK/India CEOs forum, and a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II.