India's Narendra Modi Gets Rock Star Welcome at London's Wembley Stadium

Updated With a song, a dance and most certainly a bang, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi capped off his visit to the U.K. at London's Wembley stadium, where he was greeted like a rock star.

The afternoon began with a string of performances from local British-Indian dance troupes and musicians. From Yogis to the sound of Indian tanpura strings and from choruses of Jai Ho to Bharatnatyam dance medleys, the program took Wembley on a trip through India's rich cultural history.

Organizers of the event missed no opportunity to hammer home the theme of British and Indian cooperation as the master of ceremonies delivered his introduction in Hindi and in English. "Britain is proud of you," he said, grinning as a roaring cheer shook the bowels of Wembley in response.

The symbolism would not have been lost on any of the 60,000 people attending, who then watched Indian tampana drummers taking on drumming, kilted-up highlanders, schoolchildren racing each other to the stage with the Union Jack and the Indian flag and musical performances from British Indian artists.

Yet despite all the entertainment in store there was only going to be one headliner and that was the man whose image beamed from every screen outside Wembley and whose name had been chanted sporadically by adoring spectators since doors opened. Narendra Modi took the Wembley stage to deafening cheers.

"Are you ready to receive him? Are you ready to welcome him?" The messianic introduction drew a fittingly grand response as the Wembley crowd answered with a near unanimous chant of "Modi, Modi!"

Modi walked onstage with British counterpart David Cameron and the British leader's wife Samantha who, in a further gesture of welcome, wore a traditional Indian sari.

"Namaste Wembley," Cameron said to thundering cheers, while a solemn-faced Modi stood in the background. "Team India, a huge welcome from team UK. We're used to meeting on a cricket pitch and it can be an intense battle, but meeting on this football pitch with a gathering like this we are all winners today."

Cameron then hailed India as the world's largest democracy before giving his endorsement to a cause Indians have advocated for for some time.

"When it comes to the UN we know what needs to happen—India with a permanent seat in the UN security council," Cameron said, followed by one of the loudest cheers of the night. Loudest that is until the standing ovation that welcomed Modi to the podium several minutes later. Modi stepped forward with chants of Modi thundering across Wembley.

"Good evening family. A big thank you," Modi began his address in English, "Big thank you for being here."

"I was told that London would be cold, but not this much. Your wonderful and warm welcome makes me feel at home," Modi added, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Switching to Hindi, Modi appeared more at ease, congratulating the audience on the festival of Diwali, before turning more serious and much more animated. Modi's government, although hugely popular among voters, has been criticised by liberal commentators inside and outside India for rising intolerance. In 2002, during Modi's time as head of Gujarat, the region was hit with religious riots in which over 1,000 people were killed, most of whom were Muslim. Law enforcement officials have since alleged that Modi deliberately allowed this.

"Look at our culture look at our diversity," Modi declared. He says people often ask him him how India, a country of 1.2 billion people, 100 languages and 1,500 dialects get along. Modi said his answer is: "This diversity is our pride and our strength."

"Wherever members of the Indian community have gone they went with their own traditions. They knew how to live with others while safeguarding their own traditions. Across the whole world the Indian community has shown this energy."

In outlining the two biggest issues in the world today, Modi pointed to terrorism and global warming. The Indian leader also stressed the need to bring India on par with global leaders.

"Dear friends, brothers and sisters, today India has acquired dignity pride and all of you I am sure feel that," the Indian leader added. "The world today recognizes India as a power. And we continue to hope, we continue to work towards making India into a country on the same level as others. We do not want charity from others. What we are looking for is equality."

Modi also pledged to bring electricity to some 18,000 villages in India currently off the grid within the next 1,000 days.

Correction. An earlier version of this story stated that Narendra Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit Britain. He is not, and the story has been corrected to reflect that.

India's Narendra Modi Gets Rock Star Welcome at London's Wembley Stadium | Politics