A customary 'British' PM
Pragmatically, the much-hyped Indian origin and Hindu faith of the new British PM will hardly have any significant bearing on Britain’s outlook towards India; wisdom lies in seeing him as just another PM who would strive to further UK’s sovereign interests
Across the topography of Europe, by the North-western coastline, amidst the North Atlantic Ocean is situated the island named Britain. Recently, Rishi Sunak has been appointed as the Prime Minister of the country. But India, being located quite afar, is vibrant with waves of sensation about Rishi Sunak. Why? It is true that Rishi Sunak has an Indian origin. Born in a 'non-White', immigrant family and by becoming a Prime Minister, he has definitely created history; as he is the first of his kind in the British prime ministerial legacy. Before this, there was a Prime Minister of Indian origin in Ireland. But the question remains, why is India so emotionally sensitised?
India had been under the control of British colonial rule for more than 200 years. Today, when someone from the Indian origin gets elected as the PM of the same Britain and, that too, coming from a 'non-White' and 'non-Christian' background, following Hinduism, ripples of excitement are a normal affair. The parents of Rishi Sunak are both Hindu, and so is his wife. In fact, to specially mention here, Rishi Sunak is also the son-in-law of Narayana Murthy — the 'sultan' of the Indian IT industry. So, eventually, he could be referred to as India's 'son-in-law' without any hesitation.
A faction of the ruling BJP has been stressing on the fact, by all means, in the social media that the entire 'Hindu' clan is jubilant about the success of Sunak. The anti-BJP section in India, on the other hand, has countered the narrative by putting the question, if Britain could appoint a PM from the Hindu-minority there, then why couldn't India witness a Muslim PM, even after 75 years of its independence? In response, the BJP replied that they have been in power for a complete tenure of 14 years to date, which includes Vajpayee's government for six years and Narendra Modi adding eight years. If that is so, the BJP has put the question that in the remaining 60 years, with either the Congress or its allies in power, why wasn't there any Muslim PM?
Now, if public sentiments are kept aside, which actually has nothing to do with Rishi Sunak's appointment as the PM, it could be seen that Sunak became the PM with support of the Conservative Party. The total voting number for the Conservative Party constitutes one lakh 80 thousand, within which there are 357 MP seats. As per the British rules, with the support of 100 MPs, a candidate is deemed eligible to contest for the PM's position. Rishi Sunak had the confidence of 140 in total.
It may be mentioned here that the members of the House of Lords are not the members of the Parliament. Precisely, they are above the MP's. Eventually, they do not have the right to vote. Now, let's retrospect the reasons behind Rishi Sunak becoming the PM. Is it due to his religious identity, that he is a Hindu or, so to say, a non-Christian? Or is it because there was no controversy on the issue of him being a Catholic or a Protestant? Else, can the reason be admitted for him to become the British Prime Minister, for he fought the contest with the highest number of supporters from his party members? Liz Truss lost the authority as PM due to her vulnerable economic policies, and for ensuing an unscientific budget. When she resigned, Boris Johnson was on a holiday trip to the Caribbean. From there only, he expressed his decision to contest. Shortly after that, he announced that he wouldn't contest, seeing the greater interest of his party and the nation. In reality, he realised that he would fail to draw the support of 50 MPs in the least. Besides him, Penny Mordaunt was another contestant, who couldn't succeed due to lack of majority support. Sunak on the other hand was formerly the finance minister. Being a brilliant student in the discipline of economics, he had been a successful business entrepreneur. At this hour of crisis, the people of Britain perceive Sunak to be an ideal leader who can resurrect the nation out of its downslide. There lies the actual reason behind Rishi Sunak being appointed as the PM, rather than him being a follower of the Hindu faith or hailing from an Indian origin.
Keeping aside the din and bustles of sentimental strides, it is well perceived that PM Modi has always been aware of the fact that how effectively Rishi Sunak handled the economy of his country during the Covid period. This has definitely contributed commendably to his public and political image. As a PM now, the interests catering to the sovereignty of Britain would be the first priority of Rishi Sunak. Naturally, India's interest would neither be a priority nor a concern to him. So, it would be certainly a false expectation to nurture, thinking Sunak would look into the issues such as retrieving the "Kohinoor" back to India or immediately mediating an Indo-British economic treaty.
There is a fair possibility of Indo-British economic solidarity in the near future. The reason, certainly, is a different one. After the Party Congress of China, Xi Jinping was re-elected as the Party President. On the occasion, no gesture of congratulation was expressed by Narendra Modi. On the contrary, he conveyed his good wishes to the British PM; and even took the initiative of making a telephone call. The possibility of economic solidarity seems to be very bright. The key reason being the unstable condition of the British economy. Rather, India seems to chart higher on the fiscal parameters. If India holds the fifth position in terms of economy, then Britain comes on the sixth. Apart from India's interest, there is the vested interest of Britain as well to proceed towards a financial-treatise. This economic solidarity was planned, and was on the verge of getting formalised ever since the tenure of Boris Johnson. But ultimately, it had to be postponed due to the outbreak of a political inconsistency in Britain. Suella Braverman — incidentally holding an Indian origin — was the then Home Minister in Johnson's cabinet. At that time, a statement made by her flared up a huge controversy. In her statement, she directly termed any financial treaty with India to be an unwise one. Her justification on the issue was that in the context of security norms, India should have to ratify its policies on visa. The matter turned out to be graver on her controversial statements on Indian Immigration. Later, she stepped down. This Suella Braverman has been reinstated back in the cabinet, again, by Rishi Sunak. A notable fact that deserves to be mentioned here is that, recently, at a Diwali celebration in London, she was present. Interestingly, there she spoke exactly the opposite from her earlier statements. She emphasized on the treaty with India. As a matter of fact, it is crystal-clear what Britain is looking forward to, without any spec of a slightest doubt.
It was an old English tradition where the Crown Queen would conduct the words of oath. Now there is the King. The monarchy is a follower of the Anglican-Protestant faith. The Pope would have been supreme, had there been the Catholic faith. This is the primary reason for British Prime Ministers being believers of the Protestant faith. In the past, there had been the 'odd-one' like Tony Blair who was basically a Catholic, but was solemnised into the Protestant faith during his term of service; he retained back to Catholicism when he stepped down. It had triggered a row of controversy in the British News media in London then.
So, eventually, in compliance with the orthodox culture of Britain, not only being a Christian but a Catholic Prime Minister was beyond imagination. It is certainly a matter of great interest to see a non-Christian Prime Minister taking oath in the presence of the King, which not only marks the beginning of a modern outlook and a reformative approach of the English society but, at the same time, also initiates a new beginning of reformation for the country, in this hour of crisis under a capable leadership.
Given this present situation, the Conservative Party in no way could project another deserving contestant. So, this new prime ministerial governance has to be seen and analysed, free of any sentimental biases. The Indian perspective needs to be matured. The primary strategy undertaken by PM Modi is to secure India's position on the global platform, and himself evolve as a world leader. The Indian government feels that the 'Make in India' project — initiated by the PM — has been aptly successful. Therefore, the idea is not to put up the modus to surrender, but firmly incorporate the treaty with Britain in complete prudence. India, in all these years, has clinically rectified and worked hard on its foreign policy, and got rid of its meek approach. This is the reason when the news media and a particular faction of the BJP was busy in the hype over Rishi Sunak, Narendra Modi maintained his official approach as a PM towards Sunak — being another PM and nothing more or less. He looks into the Indo-British economic solidarity as a possibility from the perspective of governance mechanism, as followed with the other prime ministers in the past. A prime minister could change, but that would not alter any structure within British foreign policy, neither in the constitution of the Conservative Party. Narendra Modi would be the last to believe on these notions.
Rishi Sunak has taken his oath by pledging over the "Bhagavat Gita". He had observed Diwali by lighting lamps on the occasion of Diwali in the past, in the residence where he used to live as the finance minister, right beside the PM's residence. He has been seen wearing the typical thread on his wrist, which bears a relevance in the Hindu faith. But even after all of this, he is now the British Prime Minister. On every matter, be it the economic solidarity to the 'Kohinoor' or anything else, he has to safeguard the interests of Great Britain. There are still quite a few disputes and differences of opinion that do persist on the issues related to the financial treaty with India, within the British Parliamentary Committee. In fact, the Labour Party — the opposition majority in Britain — has been vehemently and constantly vocal against this treaty. Furthermore, questions have been raised by Britain — like other European nations — on the benevolent behaviour of India towards Russia, despite Russia's position after the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Apart from these issues, the visa-policy still lays unresolved. But taking into consideration their own interest, London might look forward to this treaty, as apparently opined by the Indian Foreign Ministry. Adding to the third in number as another Hindu Prime Minister, in the entire world, after India and Nepal, could be of much rejoice to a lot here, including a bunch amongst the BJP. But Narendra Modi doesn't seem to prioritise this factor much. On the contrary, according to the sources in the Indian Foreign Ministry, publicising this factor might shoot out troubles for the British PM, within his country. Keeping these factors in mind, the Indian Foreign Ministry has advised the BJP — the ruling party — to go low on exploiting this 'Hindu' angle of the issue.
Views expressed are personal