Less than a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping clinched over $60 billion in business deals with the U.K., India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will begin his maiden visit to the country Thursday. The trip comes days after Modi, who has been attempting to persuade the world to “Make In India,” received a battering in a key election in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
“Both sides will be seeking to boost investment,” Neelam Deo, a former Indian ambassador and director of Mumbai-based Gateway House, told Bloomberg. “But Modi certainly won’t get the kind of bowing and scraping from the U.K. side. That has everything to do with the amount of investment the Chinese are making in the U.K. that India simply can’t match.”
Despite the recent economic slowdown that the country is reeling under, China remains one of the U.K.’s most important trading partners in Asia. Bilateral trade between the two nations currently stands at over $80 billion -- as opposed to just over $14 billion between India and the U.K.
While Modi has acknowledged British Prime Minister David Cameron as a “good friend” of India, he has not rushed to cozy up ties. His "Make In India" initiative, which seeks to attract foreign investment to the country, has so far bypassed the U.K.
“My visit is aimed at strengthening cooperation with a traditional friend that is not only a major economic partner of India but also one of the leading economic players of the world,” Modi said, in a statement released Tuesday, calling for cooperation in a “range of areas.”
An area where progress is expected is the civil nuclear cooperation deal between the U.K. and India, which was agreed on in 2010 and aims to increase bilateral collaboration in the field of civil and military technology and nuclear research projects. Additionally, the two countries are also expected to release joint statements on defense, energy and climate change partnerships, Indian foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar reportedly said.
“It may be that there are rather a lot of medium-sized projects rather than one big iconic project,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also said last week.
Despite its economic significance, Modi’s trip to the U.K. has been overshadowed by protests by activist groups that accused him of “unleashing of a violent authoritarian agenda” in the country. Ahead of the Indian prime minister’s London trip, activists belonging to the U.K.-based Awaaz Network said that they projected an image of Modi along with the words “Not Welcome” and a swastika-style “om” symbol on the Palace of Westminster Sunday night.