independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Johnson gets armed guard in Mumbai

Mayor of London Boris Johnson speaks to business leaders at Infotech in Hyderabad, India

Boris Johnson is being given the full VIP treatment on his arrival in India's trade capital Mumbai - with an armed guard keeping watch outside his hotel room.

The London Mayor - on the final leg of his tour to promote British businesses in India - is being given a full security detail during his stay in Mumbai's five star Taj Land's End hotel. A source said: "There's four or five guards on his floor, although one does look a bit dozy."

Mr Johnson is not being given quite the same treatment as a visiting head of state but following the Mumbai bombings in November 2008 at the Taj Mahal hotel in the city, where the mayor stays tonight, the Indians are taking no chances.

On Wednesday night Mr Johnson met the England cricket team at a gala reception in the hotel gardens where he chatted with batsman Kevin Pietersen, whom he described as having a "zen-like focus" at the crease. The pair also shared batting tips.

When pressed, sources close to Mr Johnson said he was receiving security akin to a government minister or well-known celebrity but stressed it was "standard procedure". It is understood the mayor was given the same security detail in Hyderabad.

Both cities have similar security threat levels, compared to Mr Johnson's first stop, Delhi, where the risks are perceived to be lower. Mr Johnson has been loaned the British High Commission's cream Range Rover, bearing the Union flag, for his visit. The car is tailed by an unmarked people carrier with armed police officers as it travels around Mumbai.

On Thursday morning Mr Johnson arrived in the "Belgravia of Mumbai" for talks with Indian film executives at the trendy Aurus beach side bar, which was more akin to an upmarket venue in Ibiza.

Mumbai is much hotter than Delhi and Hyderabad at this time of year and the film executives who had chosen to meet Mr Johnson wore pale linen suits and aviator sunglasses. After enjoying talks on the bar's terrace, decked out with white linen sofas and overlooking the Indian Ocean, the mayor headed indoors for an hour-long meeting.

Mr Johnson met leading horror film director Vikram Bhatt, who has been behind recent Bollywood hits Raaz 2, Inteha, 1920 - The Evil Returns and Kasoor. The Indian media and entertainment sector media industry is forecast to be worth 100 billion US dollars in the next decade.

London is already the top destination as a film set but with the BBC moving part of its operations to Salford, television executives in the capital fear the small-screen sector could suffer. The television tax credit comes in to play next April - it will offer a 20% rebate on the costs of production - and the mayor is keen to make sure Indian producers decide to come to London.

Press Association

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