Of course, it wasn’t planned, but it was still really cool. The 75th anniversary celebrations of India’s independence from British control fell on the same year that Rishi Sunak was elected as the country’s first prime minister of Indian descent. From the Age of Empire to the Rishi Raj, read the headline of The Times of India.
Then, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised “the living bridge” of British Indians, saying they will help “transform our historic ties into a historic partnership.” This G20 weekend, will that partnership between the two Hindu heads of state be strengthened?
According to appearances, the time is ideal for brokering a new era in Anglo-Indian ties. But it serves as a warning that the path to deeper connections is unlikely to be an easy one given that the interchange and discussion between the two nations are still frequently framed in terms of a colonial past.
Already, the two nations are very close. There are one million trips between the two nations each year, and British Indians constitute the largest ethnic minority community in the UK with linkages to two million homes in India. King Charles has made ten trips to India, enjoys ayurveda and yoga, and invited dabbawalas to his second wedding.
India currently has the fifth-largest economy in the world, and by the end of the decade, it will almost probably hold the third-largest position. Its expanding middle class, which has a preference for Western products, may become a significant market for UK businesses. Both nations have top-tier service providers with the capacity to drive the knowledge economy in the ensuing decades. As evidenced by Tata’s recently announced ambitions to erect a £4 billion electric car battery plant in Somerset, the UK and India already have close commercial connections.
Mr. Sunak has transformed Boris Johnson’s vague post-Brexit goals for “global Britain” into a “Indo-Pacific tilt” that is more targeted. A region of the world that already hosts half of all human beings and is anticipated to be the primary engine of global economic growth for the foreseeable future is one with which the UK is trying to forge partnerships and increase commerce. According to projections by the International Monetary Fund, India will contribute more to global growth this year than the whole Western Hemisphere combined.
India is a key player in the complex patchwork of alliances being created to assist offset Beijing’s muscular “wolf warrior diplomacy” on the geopolitical side of the ledger.
In order to prevent President Xi Jinping from having the upper hand, New Delhi and the West have an interest in slowing down or at least restraining China’s growth. The term “West” still mostly refers to the United States in this context. However, the UK has historically been a good way to capture the widely dispersed American attention.
The UK is eager to sign new defense agreements with India, following the example of the US and France, which would foster increased collaboration on the transfer of military technology. This is a clever way to win over New Delhi because it will strengthen land and sea defenses against China while also creating a local supply chain and reducing reliance on Russian weapons.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is said to communicate with India’s minister of external affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar more frequently than any of his other counterparts, with the exception of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The history of the UK’s relationship with India, however, is unavoidably tangled. Eliminating the last traces of India’s colonial past is one of the ways the Hindu nationalism championed by Mr. Modi’s government reveals itself.
The military band that performed the hymn Abide With Me at every Republic Day celebration since the 1950s was replaced last year with a patriotic Hindi song that pays tribute to the Indian troops who lost their lives in the 1962 conflict with China.
There are rumors that Mr. Modi’s administration is considering renaming the nation because Droupadi Murmu, the head of state of India, addressed her in an invitation to a G20 dinner as “President of Bharat.”
This may be in part a reaction to the recent development of an alliance of opposition parties before of the elections known as INDIA (Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance). However, India’s minister of education, Dharmendra Pradhan, told local media that “this is the biggest statement to come out of the colonial mindset.”
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