Modi in London: 'Bharat ki Baat' event, India-UK enhance ties; highlights

PM Modi arrives at London's Central Hall Westminster for Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath programme event
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in the United Kingdom, as part of his five-day three-nation tour, interacted with participants in the ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Sath’ programme on Wednesday at Westminister's Central Hall in London. Earlier during the day, Modi and UK Prime Minister Theresa May discussed a new UK-India Tech Partnership, which will create thousands of jobs and generate significant investment in both the economies. Modi held a bilateral meeting with his British counterpart Theresa May on Wednesday morning and discussed various topics, including defence cooperation, chemical weapons attacks in Salisbury and Syria, legal matters, Chennai six.

Commencing his interaction with the world during his much-talked-about diaspora event, "Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath" (India in discussion with the world), Modi said, "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." 

During his discussion in the Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Sath programme, Modi outlined three objectives of his government — Children must be educated, youths must have jobs and the elderly must have access to medicine.

“People have more expectations from us because they know that we can deliver. People know that when they say something, the government will listen and do it. Days of incremental change are over. Can do justice to the nation when I forget myself," he said.

Prime Minister Modi is ending the first day of his London visit by interacting with Indian diaspora at an event titled 'Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath'. Along with live questions from the audience present there, questions are also being sourced from Facebook, Twitter and the NaMo app.

The discussion is considered as the most important highlight of the "Living Bridge" theme of the India-UK bilateral visit. Modi will also reply to questions pouring in on social media during the live broadcasting of the event. 

Click here to watch the Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath event 

Narendra Modi arrived in London on Wednesday to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being hosted by the United Kingdom, which will take over as the new Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth from Malta. Modi looks to improve India’s role in multilateral organisations at CHOGM. 

Modi also called on Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham Palace in London and discussed issues of mutual interests. The 91 year-old monarch is the Head of the Commonwealth.

A "flash mob" of saree-clad women from Indian women in UK, accompanied by dhols, had gathered outside Downing Street to welcome the Indian PM with banners such as "In India, peace is always in fashion".

After his meeting with the British Prime Minister, Modi visited the Science Museum to explore the '5000 Years of Science and Innovation' exhibition and interact with Indian-origin and other scientists and innovators based in the UK.

The event, hosted by Prince Charles, included the launch of a new Ayurvedic Centre of Excellence, aimed at creating a first-of-its-kind global network for evidence-based research on yoga and Ayurveda.

The executive session of day-long CHOGM deliberations between the 53 heads of government in London will culminate in a gala dinner hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in the evening.

India is the second-largest Commonwealth trading partner for the UK, at 16.3 per cent of total UK-Commonwealth trade of around 94.4 billion pounds after Canada's 16.4 per cent.

According to official estimates, India-UK bilateral trade stands at $13 billion, with the UK among the largest G20 investors into India. Modi's UK visit this week will have a particular focus on the India-UK technological partnership as well as an enhanced role in the Commonwealth.

A series of demonstrations, including a silent protest to condemn the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district, have been planned by various groups at London’s Parliament Square in his visit.

Modi would also have a brief stopover in Germany to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on April 20 while on his way back home. Both the leaders will exchange views on a number of bilateral, regional and international issues.

Top 10 Highlights of PM Modi's Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Sath programme:

1. Modi hosts Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Sath’ programme: Commencing his interaction with the world during his much-talked-about diaspora event, "Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath" (India in discussion with the world), Modi said, "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." 

He further added: "Impatience is not a bad thing. If a person has a cycle, person then aspires for a scooter. If a person has a scooter, person aspires for a car. It is nature to aspire. India is getting increasingly aspirational."

"During the freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi did something very different. He turned it into a mass movement.He told every person that whatever you are doing will contribute to India's freedom. Need of the hour is to make development a mass movement," said Modi. 

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: PM Modi at #BharatKiBaatSabkeSaath event in London pic.twitter.com/dDaEifMmmG

— ANI (@ANI) April 18, 2018
2. Modi on Kathua rape case: With multiple rape cases of minor girls sparking nation-wide outrage, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there should be no politics over the issue. Modi said it is shameful when people compare metrics versus earlier governments when a girl child is raped. He was talking about the recent rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir. He further advised parents to not only question their daughter when they come late, but also ask their son about his whereabouts.

"When a child is raped, what could be worse? Is that the time to compare metrics versus the earlier governments? When a girl comes home late, all parents are worried. When a boy goes out and comes home late, why don't we ask him where he was?” said Modi.

3. On ModiCare: The Prime Minister said that Ayushman Bharat, popularly known as ModiCare, aims to create 150,000 health care centres in India.

"We are working with a holistic approach for the health sector at the same time we're working towards more cleanliness. Now if people call it ModiCare so be it," Modi said.

Ayushman Bharat seeks to provide Rs 500,000 medical coverage per family per year to 107 million (10.74 crore) poor and vulnerable families based on Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC).

4. Modi on surgical strikes: In a warning to Pakistan, Narendra Modi asserted that India will not tolerate those who like to export terror and will give back "strong answers", as he referred to the 2016 surgical strikes conducted across the LoC. “When someone has put a terror export factory in place and makes attempts to attack us from the back, Modi knows how to answer in the same language,” said the Prime Minister in reference to Pakistan. After Modi’s statement, the crowd raised ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogans.

He further said that before informing the Indian media on surgical strikes, the government first called Pakistan but they did not respond to their call. “We called them since 11 am but they were scared to come on the phone, at 12 pm we spoke to them and then told the Indian media,” said Modi. 

5. Modi about his life at railway station: Using his life's journey as an example to motivate people, 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 here was the 'sevak' (servant) of 1.25 billion (125 crore) Indians.

"The person in the railway station was Narendra Modi. The person in the Royal Palace in London is the Sevak of 125 crore Indians," said Modi during an interactive session at the Central Hall in Westminster when he was asked about his journey from a railway station to the palace here.

"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 people of India," he said.

6. Four million senior citizens gave up railway concession: Modi said over 4 million (40 lakh) senior citizens have voluntarily given up the concession in the reservation of railway tickets. He said all this was achieved only by giving an option to the senior citizens in the reservation form to forego this subsidy.

"In India, there is a railway ticket concession for the senior citizens. I told officers to give an option to them to forego the concession in the reservation form if they wish to," Modi said.

"Had I made a law to enforce this, there would have been wide protests," he said.

7. On LPG subsidy: The Prime Minister said that earlier he had made an appeal to the public to give up the LPG subsidy if they could afford it.“So far, 1.25 crore (125 million) families have given up the gas subsidy," he said.

"There is no dearth of honest people in the county. It is our work to understand the potential of our people,” Modi added.

8. Modi recalls days when he was poor: “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,” said Modi during Bharat ki Baat, Sabke Sath event.

He added: “18,000 villages did not have electricity. So many women do not have access to toilets. These realities of our nation did not let me sleep. I was determined to bring about a positive change in the lives of India's poor.”

9. ‘If India has a million problems, we have a billion solutions’: Modi said: “I'm just an ordinary man like you. Think of me like one of you. The position I occupy is about work. I am a lifelong student. My equity is the support of a billion Indians. I may make mistakes but I will never do it with the wrong intentions. I have been Gujarat's longest serving chief minister. I have never done and will never do anything with the wrong intention. I never thought I could change the country. But I believe fervently that if there are a million problems in India, we have a billion solutions. That is where I draw my strength from."

10. On passport: "You all must have seen that the power of your passport has increased. People look at you with pride. India is still is the same. But today we can see a difference. Indian has managed to do this & now people know the power of India," said Modi, according to news agency ANI.

Here are the top 10 developments of Modi’s visit to London

1. India, Britain sign nine agreements, announce initiatives
: India and Britain on Wednesday signed a number of agreements and announced initiatives, including in the areas of technology, trade and investment, during the course of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit here.

The two sides signed a framework agreement for the UK-India Cyber Relationship, committing to a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace; and cooperation in exchange of information and strategies for effective cybersecurity incident management and threat response.

An MoU on cooperation and exchange of information for the purposes of combating international criminality and tackling serious organised crime, to establish a mechanism for the exchange of criminal records, immigration records and intelligence, was also signed.

On rejuvenation of river Ganga, an MoU has been signed between the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), UK.

The MoU will enable Britain to support the Indian government in the sustainable management of water resources in the Ganga basin through collaborative programmes of research and innovation and exchange of policy experts with the support of UK Water Partnership.

2. India and UK seek secure, open Indo-Pacific region: India and UK called for a secure, free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the strategically vital region.

The two countries, in a joint statement, said they share a global outlook and commitment to a rules-based international system that strongly opposes unilateral actions that seek to undermine that system through force or coercion.

"A secure, free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific is in the interests of India, the UK and the international community," it said.

The statement came as China is building new vessels at a rapid pace to bolster its navy.

3. India-UK to increase bilateral ties: UK Prime Minister Theresa May updated Prime Minister Modi on on the progress of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, saying 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, a Downing Street spokesperson said, according to news agency PTI. 

A warm welcome and a fire-side discussion! PM @narendramodi welcomed by @theresa_may @10DowningStreet. The two leaders had wide-ranging talks on redefining and infusing new energy into our bilateral engagement post-Brexit. pic.twitter.com/mj1a4addM3

— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 18, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his British counterpart Theresa May in the United Kingdom | Photo: Reuters
4. Syria air strikes, counter-terrorism on agenda: A statement issued by 10 Downing Street after the meeting said that the Syria air strikes, counter-terrorism, radicalisation and online extremism were among some of the key topics covered by both leaders.

Modi assured May that the UK's withdrawal from the European Union offers opportunities to "further increase" bilateral trade ties as the two leaders had "fruitful discussions" on multiple aspects of India-UK relations and issues like counter-terrorism, radicalisation and online extremism.

While discussing climate change, Modi touted that “new energy will be added in existing ties.”

"I'm confident that new energy will be added to our ties after today's meeting. I'm happy that UK will be part of International Solar Alliance (ISA), I believe this is not only a fight against climate change but our responsibility for future generations," PM Modi told Theresa May during the meeting.

5. India-UK defence cooperation: Modi and May reflected on the progress made on bilateral defence and security cooperation since the Prime Minister's visit to India in 2016 and the agreement to a number of Defence Capability Partnerships in key strategic areas, with closer military-to-military ties underpinned by a succession of high-level visits and exchanges

May reiterated UK's position on Russia's recent "destabilising behaviour", underlined by the attack in Salisbury on former Russian double Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and the protection provided for the Syrian regime's repeated use of chemical weapons against its people.

India-UK legal cooperation: During a discussion on cooperation between the two countries on legal matters, which is likely to have covered extradition matters, May also welcomed the return to UK of the "Chennai Six", former British soldiers, accused of piracy, who were freed from an Indian jail last year.

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6. UK joins International Solar Alliance: Modi said, “I welcome the UK joining the International Solar Alliance. This gives strength to the fight against global warming. We are doing this for the wellbeing of our future generations,” tweeted the official handle of Office of the Prime Minister of India.

“The world is concerned about global warming and actionable work is being done in the form of the International Solar Alliance. Recently, we had a good Summit in India,” Modi added. 

I welcome the UK joining the International Solar Alliance. This gives strength to the fight against global warming. We are doing this for the wellbeing of our future generations: PM @narendramodi

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 18, 2018

7. PM Modi pays floral tributes at Basaveshwara bust in London: Modi on Wednesday paid floral tributes at the bust of 12th century Lingayat philosopher and social reformer Basaveshwara at Albert Embankment Gardens on the banks of the river Thames.

The event was organised by The Basaveshwara Foundation, a non-profit organisation-based in the UK that has installed the statue of Basaveshwara.

This comes in the backdrop of Karnataka Cabinet recommending to the Centre grant of religious minority status for Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community.

Lingayats/Veerashaivas, estimated to form 17 per cent of the state's population, are considered the BJP's traditional voter base in Congress-ruled Karnataka which is going to assembly polls next month.

The Basaveshwara statue installed at the Albert Embankment is not only the first statue to be unveiled by an Indian Prime Minister in the UK, but is also the first conceptual statue approved by the British Cabinet in the vicinity of the Parliament.

PM @narendramodi pays tributes to Bhagwan Basaveshwara in London. pic.twitter.com/QS1xJNBi1D

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 18, 2018

8. Nasscom, TechUK launch UK-India Tech Alliance: The Nasscom and TechUK, the leading technology trade bodies of the two countries, on Wednesday launched a new UK-India Tech Alliance during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UK.

The announcement is part of the UK-India Tech Partnership, finalised earlier today by Prime Minister Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May following their bilateral talks at Downing Street, which also includes the creation of a UK-India Tech Hub.

The trade associations agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which will see the technology sectors from the UK and India further strengthen their relationship, developing stronger links, networks and joint platforms, helping enhance the skills of the technology workforce in both countries.

9. Modi visits London Science Museum: Narendra Modi was welcomed by Britain's Prince Charles at an exhibition organised to celebrate India's role in the history of science and technology.

"Prime Minister Modi and Prince Charles visited the exhibition on 5,000 years of Science and Technology in India," tweeted Raveesh Kumar, Official Spokesperson at the Ministry of External Affairs.

The exhibition, hosted by the Prince of Wales, celebrated India's role in the history of science and technology by exploring its contributions to subjects including space exploration and engineering, according to the official Twitter handle of Clarence House, the royal residence in London.

The Prince of Wales and Modi also watched a performance by the Akademi South Asian dance group.

Modi visited the Science Museum in London to explore the '5,000 Years of Science and Innovation' exhibition and interact with Indian-origin and other scientists and innovators based in the UK.

The Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister of India @narendramodi are visiting the @sciencemuseum today to view the Illuminating India exhibition and meet members of the British Indian communities. #CHOGM2018 pic.twitter.com/qI0moXgiJL

— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) April 18, 2018

The Prince and @narendramodi watch a performance by the Akademi South Asian dance group at the @sciencemuseum.#CHOGM2018 pic.twitter.com/bgtBlIqeMP

— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) April 18, 2018

10. PM Modi in Sweden and bilateral meetings with Nordic nations: Before heading to the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to Stockholm in Sweden where he invited top Swedish companies to invest in India and take part in the country’s flagship initiatives. PM Modi had productive discussions on bilateral and regional issues with his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven and called on Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf. India and Sweden decided to strengthen their defence and security cooperation and agreed on an innovation partnership for a 'win-win’ outcome.