[This is an excerpt from an article in The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.]
In recent years, the India-United Kingdom relationship has undergone substantial changes, and the ascension to the UK prime ministership of British-Indian Rishi Sunak has introduced an unprecedented aspect to this diplomatic alliance. As Prime Minister, Sunak significantly influenced economic policies, garnering acclaim from India and the United Kingdom. This article aims to analyse the improvement in India-UK relations since Rishi Sunak assumed office and explore potential avenues for enhancing this alliance. During his recent visit to India for the G20 summit, he proudly announced that he is a Hindu. This statement was seen by many as a mark of his commitment towards positive India-UK relations.
Rishi Sunak, as a result of his Indian ancestry, not only forged a personal rapport between the United Kingdom and India but also demonstrated the capacity of individuals of Indian descent to attain prominent positions in the United Kingdom. During his time in government, the nation grappled with the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the complexities of Brexit, and the imperative to attract global investments. Sunak played a pivotal role in plotting the course for the United Kingdom’s interaction with India, which appear to be motivated by a desire to promote cultural affinities and economic collaboration.
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Under Sunak’s leadership, an exceptional accomplishment was strengthening economic relations between the two countries. Several agreements were signed to increase investment and trade, including the UK-India Roadmap 2030 and the Enhanced Trade Partnership. These initiatives are intended to double bilateral trade by 2030 and to create employment opportunities in both nations.
Notable is the United Kingdom’s desire to collaborate with India in areas including finance, technology, healthcare, and education. Significant developments include establishing the FinTech Bridge connecting London and Mumbai and inaugurating a new financial market in Gujarat. Moreover, cultural exchanges have acquired momentum too. Implementing programmes like the ‘Living Bridge’ has fostered increased interpersonal engagement. Moreover, cultural ties between India and the United Kingdom are being fortified through the exchange of significant artefacts and the observance of festivals such as Diwali and Holi in the United Kingdom, which serves to rekindle historical ties.
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The substantial and influential Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom remains instrumental in nurturing relations between the two nations. Numerous accomplished individuals of Indian descent have contributed substantially in diverse fields, including politics, commerce and the performing arts. It is impossible to exaggerate their significance in fostering cultural exchanges, investments and trade.
Although the India-United Kingdom relationship is experiencing a surge in positive momentum, it is imperative to acknowledge and confront some existing challenges. Obstacles to market entry, immigration regulations, and visa restrictions may impede the development of this partnership. Effectively addressing these concerns will be crucial for both nations to maximise the benefits of their relationship.
Despite such challenges, India and the United Kingdom have ample opportunities to strengthen their ties.
Bharti Singh is Assistant Professor of Management, Manipal University Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.