Indian leader Narendra Modi to get red carpet welcome in visit to UK


Britain is preparing to roll out the red carpet for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a visit which it is hoped will seal billions of pounds in trade and investment deals.

The three-day visit - the first by an Indian prime minister to the UK in almost a decade - will culminate with a mass rally and firework display at Wembley Stadium on Friday, where he is expected to receive a rock star reception from 60,000 adoring supporters.

While his formal itinerary has yet to be announced, it is expected to include lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, an address to both Houses of Parliament and an overnight stay as the guest of David Cameron at the Prime Minister's country residence at Chequers.

The lavish welcome reflects Mr Cameron's determination to foster stronger economic ties with a country which he has already visited three times since becoming Prime Minister in 2010.

The Prime Minister will also take the opportunity to woo Britain's politically important Indian community, addressing the Wembley rally ahead of Mr Modi who is reportedly preparing to deliver an hour-long address.

British companies are keen to win business from an ambitious programme of economic modernisation set out by Mr Modi following his election last year.

It is reported that up to £10 billion worth of deals will be signed during the course of Mr Modi's stay, including the sale to India by BAE Systems of 20 more Hawk trainer aircraft.

However, the trip is controversial among some elements of the Indian community and the authorities are braced for protests.

Until 2012, Mr Modi was barred from entering the UK over allegations that in 2002, when he was chief minister of Gujarat, he failed to stop anti-Muslim riots in which 1,000 people died.

While he has always denied any involvement and has never been found guilty of any crime, Muslim, Sikh and Christian groups are reported to be planning a mass demonstration outside Downing Street when he meets Mr Cameron for talks.

Mr Cameron has been keen to play down the more controversial aspects of the trip, telling the Eastern Eye newspaper he is "very excited" by the prospect.

"I know the Indian diaspora will want to give him a warm welcome, as will I," he said.

Keith Vaz, the longest-serving Asian MP, said the visit was hugely important for the Indian community in Britain and they would expect Mr Modi to be given a reception "equal, if not better" than that accorded to Chinese President Xi Jinping on his recent state visit.

"It is a defining moment for the British Indian community which will see the Wembley rally in particular as its coming of age where it has organised through its own efforts the biggest single event ever to be addressed by a foreign head of government," he said.