INTERNATIONAL

Modi’s visit a policy priority: Miliband

Ed Miliband performs aarti at Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden on Sunday. —PHOTO: Special arrangement

Ed Miliband performs aarti at Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden on Sunday. —PHOTO: Special arrangement  

An invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit the United Kingdom would be high on the agenda of a Labour government if it forms a government after the elections on May 7, Ed Miliband, the party’s leader and prime ministerial candidate told The Hindu . He also said that his visit to India would “certainly be an early priority should I receive an invitation.”

“I care very much about my relationship with India and my relationship with Prime Minister Modi, so I absolutely think that [Mr. Modi’s visit] is a policy priority for me,” he told The Hindu in a brief one-to-one interaction during a visit he made to the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden on Sunday.

He said: “I know when it comes to all of the major issues that we face, whether it is growing our economy, or climate change, or on every major issue, good relations with India are absolutely crucial. A close relationship with India is a very big foreign policy priority for me.”

Regrets cancelling visit

Mr. Miliband regretted having called off his planned visit to India, which was cancelled in late 2013 owing to the flood situation in England; but stressed relations with India “is something I have taken very seriously in the past as Leader of the Opposition.”

The United Kingdom is the only major Western country that Mr. Modi has not visited after becoming Prime Minister. He was expected to attend the unveiling of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Parliament Square this year, but sent senior Cabinet Minister Arun Jaitely instead.

Visa ban following riots

The U.K. had banned Mr. Modi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister from entering the U.K. following the anti-Muslim riots of 2002 in which thousands including three U.K. citizens were killed. That ban was lifted even before Mr. Modi was elected Prime Minister.

Mr. Miliband and his wife Justine Miliband visited the temple accompanied by several senior Black and Asian minority Labour leaders who are standing for elections.

He performed an aarti standing in the section reserved for men within the large though segregated temple hall. Mr. Miliband also called for a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of Nepal’s earthquake.



The U.K. is the only major Western country Modi has not visited after becoming Prime Minister



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