LONDON– Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday told the British Parliament that India was the new bright spot of hope and opportunity as New Delhi and London signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement.
On the first day of his three-day visit to Britain, Modi addressed the British parliament — the first Indian prime minister to do so — and dwelled on history, shared expressions of joy and the desire on two sides to transform the strategic partnership.
He also faced questions from media over “growing intolerance” and about any ban on his travel to United Kingdom in the wake of riots in Gujarat in 2002 when he was the chief minister.
Modi talked of “winds of change”, “boldness and speed in decisions,” accountability in governance and his government’s commitment to individual liberties in his address to the British Parliament.
Dressed in a bandhgala, Modi received a standing ovation and thunderous applause at the end of his speech to the British parliament which was heard with rapt attention.
Hours after Modi reached London, he and British Prime Minister David Cameroon held delegation-level talks and announced that the two countries have signed a civil nuclear agreement.
“The conclusion of the civil nuclear agreement is a symbol of our mutual trust and our resolve to combat climate change, Modi said while issuing a joint statement along with British Premier David Cameron.
“The agreement for cooperation in India’s Global Centre for Clean Energy Partnerships will strengthen safety and security in the global nuclear industry,” he said.
Modi said India attached great value to defence and security cooperation with Britain and said UK will participate in the International Fleet Review in India in February 2016.
Stating that Britain was already the third largest investor in India, he said there was more investment from India in Britain than in rest of the European Union combined.
He thanked Cameron for the strong British support for India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council and membership in the international export control regimes.
Answering media queries, Modi said that India would never tolerate intolerance. Asked about sectarian strife in India, he told the media that the Indian authorities will “take strict action against those who indulge in such (violent) acts”.
“India will not tolerate intolerance,” he said, adding that India was the land of Lord Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi.
“We are a democracy and committed to freedom of speech,” he said. “We are not an intolerant society.”
Answering another query related to permission for him to visit UK in the wake of Guajrat riots of 2002 when he was the chief minister, Modi said he had visited the country in 2003 and the British government had never banned his coming here.
“I could not come (earlier) because of lack of time,” he said.
Without naming Pakistan, Modi said countries promoting terrorism must be isolated.
In his speech to parliament, Modi said India’s momentum does not come only from its growth rate, which had increased to 7.5 percent per year, but transformation it seeks in quality of life of every Indian.
Modi referred to his government’s goals in sectors such as housing, power, water, energy, sanitation and improvement in infrastructure.
“India is new bright spot of hope and opportunity for the world,” Modi said referring to 800 million being under the age of 35 years.
He said “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas” was his government’s vision of a nation, in which every citizen belongs, participates and prospers.
“I stand here today, not as a visiting head of government, given the honour to speak in this temple of democracy. I am here as a representative of a fellow institution and a shared tradition,” Modi said.
Prior to the official talks, the Indian prime minister was accorded a ceremonial guard of honour at the Treasury Quadrangle on King Charles Street here.
Modi also met members of the Sikh community in Britain before beginning his official engagements.
Modi was earlier received at Heathrow international airport, among others, by British Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire.
Following the delegation level talks, he paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at his statue at the Parliament Square here.
A fly-past by the Red Arrows, the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force, with the Indian colours marked the event.
The first day of Modi’s visit saw protests staged by groups opposed to him. Pictures on Twitter showed people gathered at Downing Street, holding placards criticising Modi.