What do Indians think of the rise of Rishi Sunak? Like relations between the UK and India, it’s complicated


As Rishi Sunak made history this week by becoming Britain’s first Indian-born Prime Minister, many in the South Asian nation were quick to congratulate the new leader – with some in the media claiming him same as theirs.

India was once part of a British Empire that stretched so far across the globe that it was often said that the sun would never set on it. But 75 years after the end of the British Raj, many Indian commentators have cheerfully pointed out how times have changed.

“The Indian son rises above the empire. History comes full circle in Britain,” said an NDTV headline.

« From Age of Empire to Rishi Raj as Sunak surges to No. 10, » thundered the Times Of India.

« India was [once] under the governance of Great Britain. Now a man of Indian origin has become Prime Minister of England,” said a presenter from Zee News.

Others were more blunt about what they saw as the symbolism behind Sunak’s appointment, news of which came on Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

« Another Diwali gift to the country. Rishi of Indian descent to rule the whites, » said India’s largest Hindi-language newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar, which has a circulation of nearly 5 million.

For some, Sunak’s appointment is just the latest in a series of events highlighting the contrasting fortunes of a rising India and the recent economic woes of Britain, its former colonial ruler.

Following Britain’s exit from the European Union, London has repeatedly looked to its former colony for a boost; courting it in pursuit of a free trade deal and granting more visas to Indian nationals than any other country.

And now, just weeks after the UK ceded its title as the world’s fifth-largest economy to India, it is to former finance minister Sunak that London is turning in hopes of undoing the economic carnage wrought by the policies of his short-lived predecessor. , Liz Truss, who shook the markets and sent the pound plummeting.

Given Britain’s actions during the colonial period – when Indians were barred from leadership positions in their own country and barred from many institutions – it is perhaps unsurprising that there can be a feeling by Schadenfreude.

But experts say it would be wrong to suggest it’s the only emotion in India. Many in the country of 1.3 billion people see the moment as a reason to celebrate progress in both countries and hope Sunak can serve as a bridge between India and Britain ushering in a new era of ties .

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested as much in a tweet welcoming Sunak’s appointment.

« Special Diwali wishes to the ‘living bridge’ of Indians across the UK, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership, » the Indian leader tweeted on Monday.

Others see Sunak’s triumph as a reflection of a growing role in British policy for people of South Asian descent.

“For a long time the question arose whether Britain was ready for Sunak to be prime minister,” said Harsh V. Pant, vice president for studies and foreign policy at the Observer Research Foundation. Foundation, based in New Delhi.

« And the fact that he is in effect now, is a huge tribute to British democracy and the role that the South Asian diaspora has played in British politics. »

The relationship between Britain and India is complicated, given the history of inequality and exploitation during the colonial era.

“Some people are still confused about the significance of Rishi Sunak’s race. It matters because of the imperial context,” tweeted Sathnam Sanghera, author of “Empireland: How Imperialism Shaped Modern Britain. « .

Many Indians have not forgotten the chaos that followed the country’s independence in 1947 and its subsequent bloody partition, in which between 500,000 and 2 million people were killed and around 15 million uprooted.

Who is the next British Prime Minister?

Pant said that until relatively recently it would have been « unimaginable » for someone of Indian descent to lead Britain, but Sunak’s appointment was the latest evidence that the relationship today is « much more secure. » the 21st century than in the past ». And it allowed the two to get things done in a much more productive way.

Economic considerations are at the heart of this more modern relationship, with London increasingly looking to India and its $3 trillion economy for opportunities in the post-Brexit era.

Britain remains one of the biggest investors in India with British companies employing nearly 800,000 people in the country, according to a 2017 report, and politicians in both countries hope economic ties will grow under Sunak.

Among the biggest prizes to be won is a much-anticipated free trade agreement, aimed at more than tripling bilateral trade, from $31 billion to $100 billion by 2030.

When then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited India in April, the two leaders agreed to sign the deal before Diwali. That deadline was missed, but there is renewed hope that a deal could be resurrected under Sunak.

« Sunak’s signing of the deal will be an important marker, » Pant said. « And that’s an important benchmark for how far Indo-British relations are willing to go. »

Chancellor Rishi Sunak lights a candle for Diwali in Downing Street on November 12, 2020 in London.

While Sunak’s face has been plastered on newspapers and televisions in India, the mood on the pitch has been harder to judge. The streets of Delhi were quiet as Indians celebrated Diwali – the most important holiday on the calendar for Hindus, who make up around 80% of the country’s population.

« It’s good to see someone whose family is from India taking the top job and that too on Diwali which is like a blessing, » said Rajesh, a chemist in the Indian capital. « But that doesn’t mean things between India and the UK will automatically improve. »

For some, his appointment is little more than a foreign news item.

A trader, Arjun, said Sunak’s appointment « didn’t make any difference » to Indians. « Yes he is Indian but he is still from there, » he said.

Others say the significance of Sunak’s appointment is that it highlights the success of the Indian diaspora, particularly in the UK, where around 7% of the population is of South Asian descent, according to a census. of 2011.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman also has Indian roots, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan was born into a working-class Pakistani family.

Sunak’s parents came to Britain from East Africa in the 1960s. His father was a doctor while his mother ran a pharmacy in southern England, which Sunak says helped him. given the desire to serve the public.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: New Conservative Party leader and incoming Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waves as he leaves Conservative Party headquarters on October 24, 2022 in London, England. Rishi Sunak has been named the Conservative leader and next Prime Minister of the UK after becoming the only candidate to garner more than 100 votes from Conservative MPs in the competition for the top job. (Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

The tough economic battle facing Britain’s new PM Rishi Sunak: Analysts weigh in


– Source: CNN

“British Indians are what I tick on the census, we have a category for that. I am completely British, it is my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian, my wife is Indian. I’m open about being a Hindu,” Sunak said in a 2015 interview with Business Standard.

When he took his parliamentary oath in 2019, Sunak grabbed the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book. He made history a year later by lighting Diwali candles outside 11 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Chancellor.

He is now at the pinnacle of power – and that, analysts say, is the epitome of Diaspora success.

Pant of the Observer Research Foundation said Sunak’s appointment symbolizes how people of South Asian descent have « cut off political parties in the UK », adding that Sunak will « shape the political trajectory » of Great Britain.

« I think there’s a certain level of comfort that people from the Indian diaspora have in these democracies, » Pant said. « And that reflects India’s greatest success in the world. »

cnn en2fr2en

Back to top button