India must be realistic with its expectations of Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak

One of the first world leaders to congratulate Rishi Sunak on becoming UK PM was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the two countries’ relations will only strengthen if historical structural barriers are eliminated.

The UK’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, was congratulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through Twitter on the day of Diwali. PM Modi underlined his wish to collaborate closely with Sunak on international issues and carry out Roadmap 2030 in his cordial message. Due to Sunak’s appointment as the first non-white and Hindu prime minister of the UK and leader of the largely white Conservative Party, social media in India went into overdrive.

Although the diaspora’s perception of Sunak is positive, it is important to keep expectations for the new UK PM in check because some institutional barriers prevent relations between India and the UK from developing as they may. The biggest worry is that leaders of Indian ancestry in third countries tend to overcompensate for their so-called minority disadvantage and are more obedient than the king when dealing with their home country. This concern is supported by past experiences.

Suella Braverman, Sunak’s home secretary and a person of Indian descent, is the most famous and recent example. While serving as home secretary during Liz Truss’ brief administration, she claimed that the proposed free trade agreement between India and the UK would undermine Brexit goals and promote immigration to the UK. According to her, Indian immigrants frequently overstay their visas in the UK.

However, PM Sunak is less concerned with the India-UK FTA than he is with restoring the British economy and reining in the spiralling inflation. It is clear that merely fiddling with taxes and interest rates won’t help the UK economy, which has been hurt by Brexit and made worse by the continued conflict in Ukraine and the global effects of the Covid epidemic. The Covid epidemic is still present, the UK has yet to recover economically from Brexit, and the conflict in Ukraine fundamentally pits the US-led NATO against Vladimir Putin’s Russia. To put it simply, PM Sunak faces a difficult journey.

Although Sunak’s nomination may have legitimately thrilled the Indian diaspora, it is difficult to say whether it will strengthen ties with India given the Narendra Modi administration’s national security concerns. The UK will need to take action against radical Khalistani forces who are openly raising money at gurudwaras in Britain and radicalising Sikh youth against India because security is the Modi government’s top priority. The problem has been brought up with their British counterparts at the highest levels by both the national security advisor and the minister of external affairs. Through the existing intelligence structure, the issue has also been brought up with British MI-5 by their Indian colleagues along with photographic proof and specifics. The issues have progressed.

The British government permitted demonstrations against the Indian embassy over the repeal of Article 370, which deals with the status of Jammu and Kashmir, and against the CAA Act, which further compounded the situation. Indian worries have increased in light of the recent communal fire in Leicester.

The extradition of Indian economic criminals who are currently finding refuge in Britain and taking advantage of the judicial system represents the second significant barrier to bilateral relations. Even though they have blatantly obvious Indian cases against them that call for extradition, criminals like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, and others have long sought refuge under the British system. Unless the UK government takes a proactive posture and extradites the white-collar criminals, this will continue to be a major bone of contention between the two nations, with the Modi government committed to bring economic offenders to justice.

The umbilical connection between the British and Pakistani deep states is the third problem that hinders the strengthening of India-UK relations. As a result of Pakistan’s assistance, Britain is able to box in a heavier weight division against Pakistan’s imperial blunders in Jammu and Kashmir because to the legacy of the long-gone British Raj in the subcontinent. In addition to falling into the trap of vote-bank politics, the existence of a sizable Muslim community from the subcontinent in the UK, notably from regions like Mirpur of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, adds to the dissonance.

The UK’s covert cooperation with the Pakistani deep state in Afghanistan, much to the dismay of India, is the fourth obstacle to bilateral relations. Before the Taliban took over Kabul, Gen. Nick Carter, the British Chief of Defence Staff, played a key role in relations with Pakistan and the US. As a result, Afghanistan is now a humanitarian catastrophe, with women and minorities being thrown under the bus while the British still have hallucinations about the Great Game of the 19th century.

The rejection of white Britain, notably its media, regarding the growth of India as a major world force, is the final obstacle that Rishi Sunak must overcome. India is on the rise under Modi, having surpassed Britain to become the world’s fifth-largest economy in terms of GDP. A contemporary and self-assured Indian is eager to engage on equal terms regardless of his skin tone or the legacy of British imperialism. Because of this, PM Modi spoke of “transforming historic connections with Britain (under Sunak) to modern collaboration.” The Brown Sahib era is done. The paradigm can be altered by Sunak.

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