$19.4b of deals signed during Modi's UK visit

British Prime Minister David Cameron (far right) showing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (third from left) the dispatch box in front of the opposition benches during a tour of the Commons Chamber at the Houses of Parliament in London on Thursday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron (far right) showing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (third from left) the dispatch box in front of the opposition benches during a tour of the Commons Chamber at the Houses of Parliament in London on Thursday. With them are Speaker of the House of Lords, Baroness D'Souza, and Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • British and Indian companies agreed on £9 billion (S$19.4 billion) of deals as Mr Narendra Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Britain in almost a decade.

Speaking at a joint press conference in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the two countries had not realised "the full potential" of their relationship.

Agreements include a five-year partnership to develop three Indian cities, a memorandum of understanding to develop nuclear power plants and a deal to allow rupee-denominated Indian Railways bonds to be traded in London.

SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES

This is a huge moment for our two great nations, we must seize the opportunities, remove the obstacles to cooperation, instil full confidence in our relations and remain sensitive to each other's interests.

INDIAN PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI, in his address to British lawmakers from both Houses of Parliament

ROOM FOR FURTHER COOPERATION

India invests more into the UK than it does in the rest of the European Union combined. I think there's scope to go much further.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, at a joint press conference

"India invests more into the UK than it does in the rest of the European Union combined," Mr Cameron said. "I think there's scope to go much further."

Mr Modi arrived in London to protests over what critics say is growing intolerance in India since his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power last year.

Sikhs carrying banners, Kashmiris and Nepalis with flags, and Muslims holding placards chanted and shouted as Mr Modi was driven to address Parliament following his meeting with Mr Cameron.

Protesters drew attention to sexual violence and caste conflict in India, and more than 200 authors, including Salman Rushdie, signed an open letter urging Mr Cameron to address "the rising climate of fear" in India during his talks with Mr Modi.

In India, leading authors and poets recently returned awards from the National Academy of Letters, accusing the organisation of staying silent over the killing of an academic who had criticised idol worship in Hinduism.

Mr Modi insisted that intolerance was unacceptable in the "land of Buddha and Gandhi".

"India is a vibrant democracy that protects every citizen and his views in accordance with our Constitution and we are committed to that," he told reporters.

A year and a half after becoming Prime Minister, there is concern over the slow pace of economic reform in a country projected by the United Nations to be the world's most populous by 2022.

Mr Modi has suffered recent political setbacks, with the BJP losing both Bihar and Delhi in regional elections this year.

Mr Modi said India and Britain would work together on renewable energy, defence and developing their respective service sectors. Mr Cameron's office also highlighted a deal for London's King's College Hospital to build a facility in Chandigarh and India's TVS Group to create more than 100 jobs in Barnsley, northern England.

The British Treasury did give details of various bond issues Indian companies are planning for the London market, including that of Indian Railways.

Vodafone Group, the largest foreign direct investor in India, pledged to invest about £1.3 billion more. This includes £800 million to upgrade its network in India, which is the highest contributor to the group's service revenue.

"This is a huge moment for our two great nations, we must seize the opportunities, remove the obstacles to cooperation, instil full confidence in our relations and remain sensitive to each other's interests," Mr Modi said in his address to lawmakers from both Houses of Parliament.

Mr Modi was to address a huge rally yesterday at London's Wembley Stadium and have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline '$19.4b of deals signed during Modi's UK visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe