Modi in London: Khalistani elements tear Indian flag; Pak hits out at PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 'Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath' at Westminster's Central Hall in London, UK. Photo: @narendramodi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today had a series of bilateral meetings including discussions with Seychelles President Danny Faure and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth on the sidelines of the multilateral Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). "Friend in an extended neighbourhood! PM @narendramodi and President of Seychelles, Danny Faure met on the sidelines of #CHOGM18 and discussed cooperation in areas of trade and investment and other bilateral issues," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. The bilateral talks between Faure and Modi assumes significance after Seychelles ordered an inquiry into the leak of a highly classified agreement signed with India to develop infrastructure on Assumption Island, which lies southwest of the mainland of Mahe.

The opposition in Seychelles has decided not to ratify the pact because of Assumption's relative proximity to Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises. Cementing close friendship with Mauritius, Prime Minister Modi met his Mauritius counterpart Jugnauth and talked about cooperation in trade and investment, maritime cooperation and people-to-people ties, Kumar said. The "pull-aside meetings" with world leaders included an interaction with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Gambian President Adama Barrow, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Rick Houenipwela.

At the end of the retreat, Modi will head back to India after a brief stop for his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Thursday rejected Modi's remarks on the 'surgical strikes' across the Line of Control in 2016 as fake, saying "repeating a lie doesn't turn it into the truth."  Speaking at the 'Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath' programme in London yesterday, Modi had said India waited to inform Pakistan about the operation before disclosing it to the media and the people.

"I said before India gets to know, we should call Pakistan and tell them. We were calling them since 11 AM but they were scared to come on phone, at 12 we spoke to them and then told the Indian media," Modi had said.

Here are the top 10 developments around Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to London, 'Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath' programme, and his itinerary for today:

1) PM's 'cavalier' conduct of foreign policy hurting India's national interests, says Congress: Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the prime minister's "boastful" claims on surgical strike neutralising cross-border terror is "embarrassing" as India continues to be exposed to multiple terrorist strikes from across the border, losing brace officers and soldiers.

"Prime Minister Modi's cavalier conduct of foreign policy at the Commonwealth Summit in London and the bilateral meeting with the British prime minister is hurting India's national interests. "He needs a firm reminder that India engages with its strategic partner countries with maturity and gravitas and does not take sides or make an uninformed statement on issues of disputes between two strategic partner countries," he said in a statement.

2) Modi at Buckingham Palace: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived at the Buckingham Palace to attend 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The Prime Minister was received by British counterpart Theresa May and Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland. The Commonwealth Summit will be formally opened by Queen Elizabeth at 10 a.m. (local time) followed by an official welcome of the leaders of 53 Commonwealth nations by May and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.

3) PoK, Khalistani elements burn Indian flag in London: Pakistan-backed PoK and Khalistani elements burnt the Indian flag in Central London on Wednesday while the London Metropolitan Police quietly watched the flag burning taking place right before its eyes.

The incident took place at Parliament Square as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing the Indian community at Westminster on Wednesday. Indian activists are outraged over the London Metropolitan Police turning a blind eye to the Indian flag being pulled down from a pole and replaced by a flag representing PoK and Khalistan. The Indian tricolour was allegedly pulled down and ripped apart by a a pro-Khalistani activist. Video evidence shows another person identified as Sahab Kashmiri from PoK, who now lives in London, raising the PoK and Khalistani flag at the pole from where the Indian tricolour was pulled down.

4) Modi to hold bilateral talks with Hasina, 10 others on CHOGM sidelines: PM Modi is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings, including with his counterparts from Bangladesh, Australia and the President of Seychelles, on the sidelines of the multilateral Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London today.

Modi will be interacting with Sheikh Hasina, their first meeting since the Bangladeshi Prime Minister's visit to New Delhi last year. However, officials have indicated that no meeting or interaction has been requested or scheduled with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, so far.

Some of the other world leaders expected to have one-on-one deliberations with the Indian prime minister during the CHOGM include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness.

Gambian President Adama Barrow, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the President of Seychelles Danny Faure are also on the list.

5) Pak rejects as 'false and baseless' Modi's remarks on 'surgical strikes': Pakistan on Thursday rejected Modi's remarks on the 'surgical strikes' across the Line of Control in 2016 as fake, saying "repeating a lie doesn't turn it into the truth." 

Speaking at the 'Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath' programme in London yesterday, Modi had said India waited to inform Pakistan about the operation before disclosing it to the media and the people.

"I said before India gets to know, we should call Pakistan and tell them. We were calling them since 11 AM but they were scared to come on phone, at 12 we spoke to them and then told the Indian media," Modi had said.

6) 'I am servant of 1.25 billion Indians', says Modi: At 'Bharat Ki Baat', Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that his life at the railway station was about his personal struggles and the person in the Royal Palace was the 'sevak' (servant) of 1.25 billion Indians. "The person in the railway station was Narendra Modi. The person in the Royal Palace in London is the Sevak of 125 crore (1.25 billion) Indians," said Modi. 

"My life at the railway station taught me so much. It was about my personal struggles. When you said Royal Palace, it is not about me but about the 125 crore (1.25 billion) people of India," he said, adding, "The railway station is a special part of my life as it made me go through the struggles of life from being a common man to the Prime Minister of India."

"People are equivalent to Gods in a democracy and if they wish even a tea-seller can become their representative and shake hands at the Royal Palace," said Modi.

'I know what it is to be poor', says Modi: Ever the politician, Modi also took veiled potshots at Congress President Rahul Gandhi. "I do not need to read books to understand poverty. I have lived in poverty, I know what it is to be poor and belong to the backward sections of society. I want to work for the poor, the marginalised and the downtrodden," he said.   

He also said that he was not born with an aim to be in the history books and that the 1.25 billion people of India were his family. "I am like any common citizen," he added.  

Read our previous coverage on PM Modi's UK visit and meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa MayModi in London: 'Bharat ki Baat' event, India-UK enhance ties; highlights

7) On Unnao and Kathua, Modi says don't politicise rape cases: Amid nationwide outrage over the Kathua, Unnao, and other rape cases, Modi said that "rape is rape", adding that such cases should not be politicised. During the 'Bharat Ki Baat' programme, Modi said, "We always ask our daughters about what they are doing, where they are going. We must ask our sons too. The person who is committing these crimes is also someone's son." 

"I have never indulged in counting the number of rape incidents in this government and that government. Rape is rape, be it now or earlier. It is extremely sad. Don't politicise rape incidents," said the prime minister, adding, "The rape of a daughter is a matter of shame for the country." 

8) At 'Bharat ki Baat', Modi warns Pakistan over exporting terror: Counter-terrorism and dealing with Islamabad's support for terrorist organisations also came up during the event. In a veiled message to Pakistan during the 'Bharat ki Baat' programme, Modi said on Wednesday that antics of those exporting terror and trying to backstab India will not be tolerated, adding that they will be answered in the language they understand. He also said that Islamabad had been informed of the 2016 surgical strikes before they were announced to the media.  

9) Modi says surgical strikes a reply to Pakistan in its own language: Referring to the Uri terrorist attack during the 'Bharat ki Baat' programme, Modi said: "We will not tolerate those who like to export terror and those who try to stab at the back. We know how to give back strong answers and in the language they understand." Asking what appeared to be a rhetorical question, Modi said that when "some cowards come and kill our jawans", did people want him "to stay quiet". He added, "Shouldn't they be replied in the same coin?" 

Modi described the Indian Army's surgical strike as "an answer to the exporters of terrorism", which sent a message (to Pakistan) "that India has changed and their antics will never be tolerated". 

Modi said, "I am proud of my soldiers. The soldiers executed the surgical strike without making a single mistake and with 100 per cent perfection. And they returned before sunrise."

10) Modi reveals Pakistani authorities didn't want to pick up the phone after surgical strikes: Modi also said that he had directed the Army to announce the surgical strikes to the media after informing Pakistan. He revealed that Pakistani authorities were initially hesitant to take their calls meant to inform them of the strikes but came on line at around 12 noon the next day, after which the media was informed about the operation. "...And look at our good intention. I told the Army officer in-charge that before announcing the news in India, he should inform the Pakistan army first about the strike and they may remove the bodies if they want to," he added. 

Pakistan maintains that no surgical strikes were carried out by India. 

Modi, May discuss Mallya, India-UK trade partnership after Brexit: Prime Minister Modi held discussions with UK PM Theresa May in London on Wednesday morning. In the meeting, India and the United Kingdom committed themselves to a stronger bilateral trade relationship after Brexit. According to a press statement from the UK PM's office, the two leaders "also discussed cooperation between the two countries on legal matters". While there was no word from the Indian side on whether Modi raised the issue of extradition of Vijay Mallya and former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said "the issue of economic offenders was also raised". However, Gokhale refused to elaborate further. He said that since the discussion tooke place as part of a prime ministerial visit, no documents on the subject were exchanged. 

Wonderful meeting with Prime Minister @theresa_may at 10, Downing Street. We had fruitful discussions on multiple aspects of India-UK relations. @10DowningStreet pic.twitter.com/Xugz1PwwQ3

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 18, 2018
Further, May expressed the UK's keenness to begin negotiations on the India-UK FTA. While Modi said the proposed FTA should be balanced and mutually beneficial, May updated Modi on the progress on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. The UK prime minister said that the "implementation period agreed in March gives Indian companies and investors the confidence that market access will continue on current terms until the end of 2020". She also sought a deeper India-UK defence cooperation. India, for its part, wants the UK to be more accommodating about its concerns on work permits, visa-related issues, Indian students and the movement of Indian professionals in the UK.

Watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi's full 'Bharat Ki Baat'  programme in UK here: 

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With agency inputs