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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » Don't Expect Favours From Rishi

Don't Expect Favours From Rishi

Last updated on: October 27, 2022 15:45 IST
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Some believe that, as prime minister, Sunak will be particularly friendly to India and that he would return the Kohinoor and do similar gestures to his motherland.
Such wishful thinking is not likely to materialise as he will act in the best interests of the UK and will not even appear to favour India, argues Ambassador T P Sreenivasan.

IMAGE: Rishi Sunak holds the folder which testifies to his position as head of the British government as he heads to the House of Commons for his first prime minister's questions -- the weekly British prime ministerial joust with the leader of the Opposition in parliament -- October 26, 2022.
Intriguingly, the folder still bears the imprimatur of the late Queen Elizabeth II rather than King Charles III. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Indians, whether in India or abroad are justifiably jubilant about the ascent of Rishi Sunak, a UK citizen of Indian origin, as the prime minister of his country.

This is not the first time that Indian migrants or their successors have assumed leadership positions in other lands. But when it happens in the US or UK, there is a feeling of triumph that we have conquered our conquerors.

Some even believe that in the case of the UK, we are finally wreaking vengeance for the Battle of Plassey, Jallianwala Bagh and Partition.

But in reality, what has happened is what has been proved again and again that Western democracies are lands of opportunities and race, colour, religion and even prejudices cannot stop the right person to reach the right place at the right time.

Earlier, it was in Alphabet, Microsoft, Twitter and Adobe, now it is in the governments in the US and the UK.

IMAGE: Rishi Sunak enters 10, Downing Street, the British prime minister's home and office, for the first time after King Charles III asked him to form a government, October 25, 2022. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

It was only weeks ago that Sunak was defeated in the Conservative party election and Tory MPs turned to him this week only when Liz Truss created a profound crisis in the British economy by her policies.

Sunak had warned against a cut in taxes before the economy stabilised.

Sunak has become prime minister as a saviour of the country as no other Conservative leader, including Boris Johnson, was found capable of handling the situation.

It was a case of a consensus in the Conservative party that Sunak alone had the experience and the wisdom to rescue the UK. This must be unique in the electoral process anywhere in the world.

IMAGE: Dr Yashvir Sunak, right, and his wife Usha Sunak, centre, along with their daughter-in-law Akshata Murty, cheer for their eldest son Rishi at a Conservative party election event in London, August 31, 2022. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Born to reasonably well to do immigrants, having been educated at Oxford and Stanford, Sunak was elected to parliament from Richmond in 2015 and was re-elected in 2017 and 2019.

Then prime minister Boris Johnson picked him up as the finance minister because of his qualifications and experience and not as a representative of a minority community.

The fact that he was a devout Hindu, conversant in the Bhagavad Gita and celebrated Deepavali was not known even to the Hindu community in the UK.

His wife's Indian passport went against him because it was suspected that she was getting tax benefits because of her status.

Some believe that, as prime minister, Sunak will be particularly friendly to India and that he would return the Kohinoor and do similar gestures to his motherland.

Such wishful thinking is not likely to materialise as he will act in the best interests of the UK and will not even appear to favour India.

Even in the trade agreement pending between the two countries will go through the most rigorous examination at his level. It may be recalled that the severest criticism against the Indian immigrants was voiced recently by an Indian origin minister, then and now Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

IMAGE: Rishi Sunak delivers his first speech as prime minister outside 10, Downing Street, October 25, 2022. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

It has become fashionable in India to criticise the British Raj in India and to demand compensation for the British atrocities in India.

A huge amount of compensation is being claimed for the damage caused by the British colonial administration to the Indian economy, though the general principle is that such claims will not be entertained once there is an agreement on independence.

The surprising fact is that some of these individuals have benefitted from the British government in various ways. By taking a strong anti-colonialist stand, they try to hide their affinity to Britain since Independence.

Sunak is not likely to answer the charge about atrocities in the colonial era or take up the idea that the British government should pay compensation for India. Nor should we push the case in his time as it will only embarrass him.

The British queen visited and paid homage at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial during her visit to India in 1997.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Sunak, alongside the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, (centre, right), holds his first cabinet meeting. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Surprisingly, some political commentators used the Sunak election to take digs at our own democracy by saying that it is unthinkable that India will ever elect someone from a visible minority to top positions in India.

Several minority leaders have occupied top positions in India and if the hint is about the prime minister's post, that has also been occupied by a Sikh!

Indians, particularly overseas Indians have every reason to be proud of Sunak's achievement and it is true that his election as the British prime minister has marked a pinnacle that Indian migrants have actually reached.

President Biden himself saw Sunak's election as a recognition of the special talents of Indian migrants abroad.

There was the same sense when Kamala Harris became the United States vice president, but she identified herself more with the black or Caribbean community rather than with India except for her love for dosa.

She has also neither covered herself with glory as vice president or diluted her criticism of India in her new position.

Indian migrants still have problems in many host countries and that is not likely to change because of Sunak's elevation. But we can certainly expect that brilliant Indians will get recognition anywhere they go in the free 1world.

T P Sreenivasan, (Indian Foreign Service, 1967), is a former Ambassador of India and Governor for India of the IAEA.

Ambassador Sreenivasan is a frequent contributor to and you can read his earlier columns here.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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