Diwali, the festival of light, is usually a time of kindness, generosity and giving of gifts. This Diwali has however come with an extraordinary heavenly bonanza for Rishi Sunak, who at 42, has been appointed the youngest Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in more than 200 years by King Charles III.
In a classic reversal of fortunes, 75 years after India achieved independence, the wheel has come full circle: from British Colonial Raj to Rishi Raj. British Colonial Raj where George McCartney arrogantly wrote in 1773 “This vast empire where the sun never sets”, about which former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, full of bluff and bluster boasted: “All Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw,” has been forced to bite the dust. Today Britain needs a gentleman of Indian origin, “a brown sahib” to unite the United Kingdom and resolve perhaps the worst economic crisis in its history.
Sunak’s appointment as Prime Minister has extraordinary symbolic significance for race relations in Britain and all over Europe and the Americas, for the struggle against colonialism, and for the empowerment of non-white (brown, black, people of colour, Asians) immigrants. Sunak as UK Prime Minister signifies “an audacity of hope” for millions of people from former British colonies, for the diaspora of Indians who have settled all over the globe.
Sunak is the first British Asian Prime Minister of Indian origin and has had the fastest rise from entering the House of Commons to 10 Downing Street in modern times.
He is the first non-White Hindu Prime Minister hailed as Britain’s “Barack Obama moment.” “Sunak, a practising Hindu, grew up worshipping with his family at the Vedic Society temple, Southampton, which his grandfather (Ram Dass Sunak) cofounded 50 years ago and where his extended family still pray,” reports Will Humphries of The Times, London.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom Sunak shares both his conservative political views and his unapologetic Hindu Indian ancestry, was among one of the first world leaders to greet Rishi Sunak on being chosen to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. PM Modi in an elegantly worded tweet said: “Warmest congratulations @RishiSunak! As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues and implementing Roadmap 2030. Special Diwali wishes to the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.”
Sunak’s big foreign policy challenge is that he must build on bonds between Britain and India, the former colonial power and the former colony described aptly as the “Jewel in the British Crown.” Responding to a question about bilateral ties from CFIN co-chair Reena Ranger, Sunak stated that “We know the UKIndia relationship is important. We represent the living bridge between our two countries”.
(The writer is CEO and Editorial
Director of Blitz India)