By Haider Abbas
It is a matter of great pride that an India Punjabi Brahmin or Khatri-origin Rishi Sunak is slated to take oath as Britain PM on October 28, and every Indian has been quite understandably elated. The Indian PM Narendra Modi first message to UK PM designate Rishi Sunak is “Warmest Congratulations” on becoming UK PM and called him a “living-bridge” for UK Indians with an exhortation to transform historic Indian ties into a modern partnership.
Rishi Sunak pictures of celebrating Diwali at 10 Downing Street in the background is what galores the world media. His ancestry is now under gaze, his grandparents were born in Gujranwala ( Pakistan), he himself was born in Southampton, UK, in 1980, after his parents were forced-out of Kenya, East Africa. But, Pakistan claim as such is not sustainable as he is overall being hailed as the first non-white Hindu PM. The big question is, as to how the ruling dispensation in India, under Narendra Modi, is to encash this event into ‘more-of-a-BJP victory’ as BJP is extremely high into ‘majoritarianism’ politics and may very soon announce a Bharat Ratna for Rishi Sunak!
After Rishi Sunak taking over as PM, his government Foreign Minister James Cleverly, in consonance to what PM Narendra Modi had referred about ‘global issues’ , made a call to India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and discussed bilateral ties, Ukraine conflict and fight against terrorism, although there was no official readout on the conversation between the two foreign ministers.
It may be also known that James Cleverly has been one of the leaders who has always backed stronger relations with India, despite UK former Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s unwarranted remarks about immigration from India, which had not gone well with New Delhi and she had to resign, days before Ex. PM Liz Truss too had to tender her resignation, which ultimately paved the way for Rishi Sunak. Truss had to resign within 45 days and Britain has seen three PMs in the last three years, the first being Boris Johnson. Rishi Sunak has the backing of 185 MPs in the British Parliament.
The British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis, also echoed the same what Narendra Modi had suggested regarding 2030, he said ‘PM Rishi Sunak made it clear that the economy was going to be a top priority. He said the economy grows in various ways including through trade and investment. “India is a big investor in the UK, and the UK is a big investor in India. We want to double the trade by 2030. “A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is an excellent way of doing that. It’s a long way to get to Free Trade Agreement. We’ve walked through the foothills, gone up the valley, and got to base camp and now we need to do this short and sharp ascent. I think both countries are determined to reach the summit,” the High Commissioner said.
How Rishi Sunak will navigate British economy is what the world is looking for, but for sure, the UK economy is in doldrums, and this is what Liz Truss has paid for, as she had announced massive-tax relaxations for the rich, as a part of her ‘trickle-down’ economy policy but it boomeranged, which was opposed by Rishi Sunak then, and now the gauntlet has been passed to him. He taking to the reigns is on a very precarious situation as lately British Pound Sterling has also crashed to its historic low, and has even triggered fears that Britain might also seek a loan from International Monitory Fund. India’s Rupee has also plummeted to its worst and despite India ‘exhausting’ its foreign reserves, by around 90 billion US Dollars, in the last couple of months, to anyhow control the fall of INR, it has not happened too. Ironically, both the countries have witnessed a free-fall on their respective currencies!
The whole issue of FTA between India and UK is touted to be a rescue-plan, but will Rishi Sunak be able to prevail over the entire British establishment which had expressed grave-concerns, that too, through an Indian origin, outgoing Suella Braverman, who had warned that FTA would lead to an influx of Indian immigrants into England! This FTA was to have happened by Diwali but now the decks are soon to be cleared. She had also related to the recent Indian-Pakistani communal riots in Liecester towards the uncontrolled immigration from India. The general sentiment inside UK is that UK might end up as an emerging-market, instead of a developed market, and this when added to a ‘heavy-rush of Indian immigrants’, would obviously add to more public-anger, this is what Rishi Sunak has to address with immediate effect. How will he contain it, as UK has been the country which has ruled-over-India for more than two centuries, and this reality cannot be ‘done-away’ with a magic wand! Yet, UK seeks access to Indian market but of course not Indians inside UK.
There is a general sense of jubilation in India over Rishi Sunak, whose worth is that of around 800 million USD aka a ‘ridiculously-rich’, more than King Charles, who has taken over England, but what lies ahead is whether he would also lead his Conservative Party to victory in 2025? How will he situate towards the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and also take-on with China, and moreover, will his place at the highest seat in England, also make some meltdown in the BJP ideology which is set to annihilate the minorities (read Muslims) in India? Which wants to erase every part of the nine-centuries of Muslims rule over India, which wants to liberate Indians from a thousand years of slavery (inclusive of British/Christian rule), as declared by Narendra Modi himself in 2014-all in the name of democracy? Perhaps never.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international issues.