Cameron plays safe as Modi tackles tricky issues

David Cameron and Narendra Modi on stage at Wembley Stadium Image copyright Getty Images

It isn't every world leader who gets the British prime minster as his warm-up man.

But, after the singers, dancers and Bollywood stars, it was down to David Cameron to introduce the Indian prime minister to the vast and adoring crowd at London's Wembley Stadium.

Narendra Modi is a veteran of these stadium gigs. He's played Madison Square Garden in New York, the Olympic Stadium in Sydney and even somewhere called the Shark Tank in California.

But this was his biggest crowd yet, or at least that was what Mr Cameron claimed.

Mr Cameron's speech was fairly predictable, a celebration of the contribution of the one-and-a-half million strong British Indian community to the country and an expression of hope that a deepening partnership with India would deliver prosperity.

But it went down very well with the audience.

Image copyright AFP

British Indians tend to be well educated, aspirational and relatively prosperous: in short, natural Conservative voters.

The political benefits of addressing and, more important still, being greeting by rousing cheers will not have been lost on Mr Cameron.

But Mr Modi's address was more interesting.

Like Mr Cameron, he played this event with an eye on the audience at home.

Image copyright Reuters

He won a landslide a year-and-a-half ago on the promise that he would modernise India and bring prosperity to the nation.

But last week, he lost a key election in Bihar, India's poorest and one of its most populous states.

Many suggested it was effectively a referendum on his administration.

He knows how well the images from Wembley will play in India.

And he produced the usual warm words about how his government would lift ordinary Indians out of poverty.

Image copyright Getty Images

But another key theme was the diversity of India - seemingly an attempt to address criticisms that he is presiding over a growing climate of intolerance in India.

His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, was criticised for pursuing a narrow sectarian agenda during the Bihar campaign.

At Wembley he talked about how India's many languages, cultures - even cuisines - were a source of power and strength to India.

He also had some unexpected things to say about India and Britain's shared history.

In the past Mr Modi has talked about slavery and oppression during colonial rule.

Today he said "the soil of London" had given birth to India's "freedom struggle" - an attempt, perhaps, to lay the legacy of Britain's imperial past to rest.

More on this story