UK, India announce $13.7 billion deals, including civil N-pact

LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday said British and Indian companies will sign deals, including a civil nuclear agreement, worth a total of $13.7 billion during his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s visit to Britain.

Cameron made the announcement in a joint press conference with Modi, saying that new rupee-denominated bonds would also allow the Indian companies to issue debt in London.

Cameron said London wanted to support Modi in his vision to transform India with improved infrastructure and education.

“We want to become your number one partner for supporting the finance needed for (Modi’s) ambitious plan, making London the world’s centre for offshore rupee trading,” he said, adding: “We’re getting that started with plans already in place today to issue over 1 billion pounds in bonds right here in London.

“During this visit British and Indian companies are announcing new collaborations together worth more than nine billion pounds,” Cameron said.

Speaking on the occasion, Modi said India considered Britain to be its gateway into Europe.

“We continue to see the UK as our entry point into the EU,” Modi, speaking via a translator, told reporters.

Prime Minister David Cameron plans to hold an in-out vote on Britain’s membership of the EU by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, up to 500 people protested outside Downing Street here on Thursday against the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of talks with David Cameron. Many of the protestors were Sikhs, Kashmiris and Dalits. Some carried banners during the peaceful demonstration.

Modi was elected by a landslide in 2014 but he and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have faced accusations from opponents that they are failing to protect minorities.

Modi is on a three-day visit to Britain which will include talks with Cameron, lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and a rally with supporters at the Wembley Stadium.

Modi was effectively banned from Britain until three years ago over anti-Muslim riots which killed more than 1,000 people in 2002, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. He has always denied any responsibility in this regard.

Nirmala Rajasingam, one of the protest organisers, said: “We have been protesting against the Modi government for a very long time because the matters of Gujarat atrocities have not been settled yet.

“Signs of religious antipathy have been there for a long time but since the BJP took power, it’s gone to a new high. There is a very specific project that they are pursuing to make India a country for Hindus only.”

Another protester, Thaman Singh Sidhu, added: “The Sikh community, the Muslim community, all minorities feel threatened… he has never condemned anything.”

Nearly 200 figures have signed an open letter urging David Cameron to raise “the rising climate of fear” in India with his counterpart Narendra Modi.

The letter calls on Cameron to demand that Modi provide “better protection” for critical voices such as writers and artists and ensure that freedom of expression in India is protected.

Modi was elected prime minister by a landslide in 2014 but he and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have faced accusations from opponents that they are failing to protect minorities.

The letter, also signed by other leading authors such as Hari Kunzru and Ian McEwan, was published by London-based writers association PEN International.

“As writers and writers organisations committed to protecting and defending freedom of expression around the world, we, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the rising climate of fear, growing intolerance and violence towards critical voices who challenge orthodoxy or fundamentalism in India,” the letter said.

“Please speak out on the current state of freedom of expression in his (Modi’s) country, urging him to stay true to the spirit of the democratic freedoms enshrined in India’s constitution.”



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