Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Kingdom next month is “not comparable” to the just-concluded, highly successful and high profile visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Priti Patel, Minister for Employment in the David Cameron-led Conservative government.
“One is a state visit for a start, something that was agreed upon and developed way in advance. This is a much more personal visit, and let’s put this into context, it does reflect David Cameron’s personal interest in India,” she told BusinessLine and The Hindu in a joint interview.
“The status of this visit is very significant. It is the first visit of Prime Minister Modi to the UK. We will obviously elevate the visit as much as we can,” Patel said, stressing the “absolute engagement from the British government” with involvement from the Prime Minister down through other levels of the government. “It is absolutely a very high level government-to-government visit.”
Appointed a ‘diaspora champion’ by Cameron two years ago, Patel emphasised the “unique” and “people-to-people” aspect of Modi’s visit.
Britain will seek to cooperate and collaborate in sectors that are key to Prime Minister Modi’s own vision for India, she said. “He has been very articulate and passionate about his plans for the development of India. I think actually this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate how we can support him in that vision.”
Underlining the “Wembley stadium factor” (a major welcome event organised by diaspora groups with an expected audience of 70,000) as part of the “people-to-people” engagement, Patel said that “professionally successful” Indian diaspora could contribute in sectors they have excelled in, like health, technology, construction, innovation, and research and development.
Business, trade and investments in job-creation will be part of the agenda, she said, pointing out that in 2014-15 India emerged as Britain’s third biggest job creator.
Though the UK is the last major western power Modi is visiting after becoming Prime Minister, it is an issue “we have no hang-ups about,” the Minister said.
Fresh from the elections, the new Conservative UK government could give his visit and the UK-India relationship “fresh momentum, fresh focus, new energy…” she said.