High expectations from Modi’s UK visit: Focus on smart cities, investments


As the euphoria builds up around India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November trip to the United Kingdom, Britain’s Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Sajid Javid is in India to firm up the visit for the visit. This will be the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the UK in more than a decade. The last visit was by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2001.

As expected, Mr Modi will be addressing a spectacular show of the Indian diaspora at the Wembley, which is expected to beat the scale of the Madison Square event held in New York in September last year. In a column in the Economic Times, Mr Javid wrote how Modi’s visit to the UK is likely to shore up trade and investment between the two countries. The UK is home to a 1.5 million-strong Indian population.

Mr Javid also wrote about how bilateral relations between the two countries have evolved and how PM Modi’s star appeal overseas has grown. He emphasised that Britain is the largest investor in India among the G20 countries and it is no longer a one-way relationship. India invests more in Britain than it does in all of the 27 European Union countries. Talking about the contribution of Indian companies, he said, “We may have given modern industry to the world but today, the largest manufacturing company in the country is Indian-owned Tata. And last year, Indian direct investments created nearly 8,000 new jobs across Britain.”

The UK is also one of the most sought after countries for higher education by Indian students. The UK, which is known to have tough visa restrictions for foreign workers, is now said to be liberalising its visa rules to enable more skilled workers to work in the country, said Mr Javid. With Prime Minister Modi flagging off his mission of urban renewal, India is hoping for Britain to leverage its expertise for building modern infrastructure in India. The UK has offered to help build smart cities in India. Presenting a report on ‘India’s Smart Cities Programme – The UK Offer to Build Together’ to India’s Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman, Britain’s Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Lord Francis Maude said, “As India embarks on its ambition to build 100 smart cities, the UK hopes to be an invaluable partner.  We look forward to sharing our expertise in building smart cities with India.  We take this opportunity very seriously and this report by UK Trade and Investment scopes the opportunities where Britain can best support India’s aspirations.”

Mr Javid is also expected to discuss issues relating to ease of doing business in India. PM Modi had promised this to foreign investors even before he took over as prime minister of the country.

India is pitching for greater investments from Britain as London is the world’s leading financial centre.  Bilateral trade between the two countries is estimated to be around USD 25 billion. The two countries upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership in 2004.

Mr Modi’s decision to visit UK is being seen as a positive move as there hasn’t been a prime ministerial visit from India to the UK for some time while UK prime ministers have been visiting India at regular intervals.

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