British begin Rish Raj

4 Min
British begin Rish Raj

Atul Cowshish

Even though Rishi Sunak took over as British prime minister on a rather inauspicious day of solar eclipse, the Bhakts in India may be wrong in celebrating it as yet another landmark of global Hindu supremacy, and presume that it automatically assures greater British affinity with its former colony India.

Sunak had gladdened many a heart when he visited a temple during his election campaign and also when he took his oath of office as Tory member from Yorkshire in the name of Bhagwat Gita. As the Chancellor of Exchequer and living next door (11 Downing Street) to the then prime minister Boris Johnson (number 10), Sunak had lighted lamps on the steps of his official residence during Diwali in 2020.  He is also reported to have said that he does not eat beef, in line with the belief of strict adherents of Hindu religion.

These symbolic gestures are alright when he admits that despite being British in every other way his religious and cultural inspirations come from the land of his forefathers. It cannot be said that that makes him clear the Norman Tebbit (a Conservative MP) test of 1990 that seeks to judge a British Asian’s loyalty on the basis of whether he or she supports the British cricket team or one from his or her country of origin.

There is no denying that among the Conservatives there are many who think that brown-skinned Asian Sunak is not ‘British’ enough. But nobody can expect ‘racism’ to disappear altogether from Britain. A much larger number of British Tory members have obviously found nothing wrong in Sunak’s loyalty to the Crown.           

Forty-two year old Sunak is, of course, a Hindu and he is quite open about it. His family has Indian roots, though his grandfather was born in Gujranwala, a town now in Pakistan. His wife is the daughter of Infosys boss Narayana Murthy, an Indian billionaire. Sunak is the richest and the youngest ever Tory premier of the country, but first and foremost he remains a British prime minister—wearing a crown of thorns.

In fact, that may have felicitated his elevation because not many will be really keen to head a government that faces a mountain of problems that have seen three prime ministers going out of office in the last seven months.

It is not just the difficult task of pulling British economy out of the woods but he also has to unite the deeply divided Conservativeds as the ruling party of Britain faces prospects of route when the next general election takes place in about one and a half years from now (January 2025).

The UK faces a three-dimensional problem of slow growth, high inflation– one of the consequences of the Russian war in Ukraine and energy shortage– which has upset the budget of the ordinary British households, and restoring the financial credibility of Britain in the international market.

His immediate predecessor, Liz Truss, was found to be so thoroughly incapable of tackling these issues that she had no alternative but to quit after an incredibly short period of 45 days, making her the UK prime minister with the shortest stay in office.

Sunak, a former Chancellor of Exchequer (finance minister) and a former banker may have some clues about dealing with urgent economic issues but his fate will be decided by how and how quickly he deals with them. The Conservative Party members have divergent views on tax cuts, one of the major steps he may be taking for shoring up the economy.      

While maintaining good relationship with India will be important, it will not see Sunak offering concessions to India. He cannot move very close to India because that will inevitably invite hostility from India’s implacable western neighbour who is already  squirming with great discomfort at Sunka’s appointment.

For Pakistan ‘Hindus’ occupying important positions in foreign governments are invariably to be looked upon as unfriendly and even hostile. It may sound trite, but one of the reasons why Pakistanis remain hostile towards the US is that a very large number of US citizens of Indian origin occupy key positions in the US administration—from Vice President Kamala Harris downwards.

While there is no apparent major obstacle in Indo-British relations, an issue that has suddenly become tricky is trade, more specifically free trade agreement which was originally scheduled to be signed by Diwali (October 24). A long pending and somewhat intractable issue is that of visa and migration. A minister in the just exited British cabinet had raised a storm in India by saying that Indians constituted the largest number of foreigners who overstayed in Britain.

Rishi Sunak has spoken of his desire to further strengthen Indo-British relations but he has also said that it has to be a two-way street. If more Indian business has to be allowed into Britain, the British business too must have easy access to India. Similarly, he would welcome more Indian students coming to Britain but would also like more scholars from British universities to be allowed to visit India without restrictions.

It may not part of his duties, but a British prime minister of ‘Asian’ heritage can be expected to do some good for the large ‘Asian’ (read South Asian) community in the UK. Very recently an instance of hatred infiltrating the minds of South Asians in a town in the northern part of Britain was witnessed. It had led to clashes between two major South Asian groups, much to the consternation of community leaders and British authorities.###