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Trade Deals, Protests Mark Indian Premier's Visit to Britain

  • VOA News

Britain's John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, applauds India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he delivers a speech at Parliament in London, Nov. 12, 2015.

Britain's John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, applauds India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he delivers a speech at Parliament in London, Nov. 12, 2015.

India and Britain signed trade deals worth $13 billion during the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United Kingdom, the first by an Indian leader in more than 10 years.

Modi received a warm welcome Thursday from his British counterpart, David Cameron, but was also greeted by hundreds of protesters who accused him of failing to stop growing religious persecution and violence against minorities in India.

During a joint news conference, Modi said India was a vibrant democracy where individual rights were guaranteed by the constitution.

After talks with Cameron, Modi became the first Indian premier to address Britain's Parliament and was welcomed with a ceremonial flyover by the Red Arrows aerobatics team, which trailed smoke over London in the colors of India's flag.

Cameron said relations between the two countries were "once imprisoned by the past," but that the nations now had formed a "modern, dynamic partnership."

Cameron said British and Indian companies would announce a series of new "collaborations" worth more than $13 billion, including plans for London to become the head of offshore trading of bonds linked to the Indian rupee's exchange rate.

Late Thursday, the British government said six deals had been agreed to, including a $1.98 billion investment by the British telecommunications giant Vodafone.

Modi is expected to have lunch with Queen Elizabeth on Friday before addressing thousands at London's Wembley Stadium.

Ahead of his arrival, more than 200 writers, including Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan, signed an open letter expressing concern about what they said was a "rising climate of fear" in India.

Modi was effectively banned from traveling to Britain until three years ago. Anti-Muslim riots killed 1,000 people in Gujurat state in 2002, when he was its top official, and he was accused of condoning the violence. In 2012, an Indian court cleared him of involvement in the riots.

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