British prime ministerial candidate Rishi Sunak interacts with the Indian diaspora (Photo: Rishi Sunak/Twitter)
Britain’s prime ministerial candidate Rishi Sunak has made it clear that he will not join a cabinet formed by his Conservative Party rival Liz Truss. Though party polls predict that Truss is ahead at the leadership hustings, Sunak is determined to follow up the process till the last.
In the past week, he reached out to the considerable British Indian diaspora. Close on the heels of visiting the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple in London on Janmashtmi, Sunak once again interacted with the Indian diaspora at a Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) event on Monday evening.
Sunak told the gathering: “I want to make sure that it’s easy for our students to also travel to India and learn, that it’s also easy for our companies and Indian companies to work together because it’s not just a one-way relationship, it’s a two-way relationship, and that’s the type of change I want to bring to that relationship”.
With the diaspora, Sunak focused on India-UK relations, which have seen a major boost under the current but outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson. With the UK embracing Brexit and relations with China deteriorating, India and the UK have found common ground in enhancing their trade, investment, visa and business relations. The governments of the two countries also are working furiously on putting together a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Stressing on the importance of bilateral relations, he said that the need is to ensure that there is a more two-way exchange of students and companies. Talking about the strong people-to-people links, he said: “We know the UK-India relationship is important. We represent the living bridge between our two countries”.
In his interaction with the CFIN, he even touched upon the issue of China. The former chancellor of the exchequer emphasised that he would be “very robust” in defending the UK against China’s aggressiveness. With tensions rising in the Taiwan Strait, relations with China have become one of the most vexed issues confronting the democratic world.
Sunak has even said that he will crack down on Islamist extremism which has become a “significant terror threat” for Britain. He has gone to the extent of saying that he will scrutinise publicly funded charities which could be promoting extremist ideology and ensure that extremist elements are kept separately in jails.
Sunak told the diaspora that, “… as your Prime Minister I will do whatever it takes to keep you, your families and our country safe because that’s the first duty of a Conservative Prime Minister”.
Speaking a bit in Hindi, he said: “Aap sab mere parivar ho (all of you are my family)”. Many people offered him gifts.
Amita Mishra, trustee of Shree Jagannatha Society UK, gave him a set of gold-plated deities from India while a Sikh Conservative Party member gifted a special bottle of Jack Daniels whisky despite both being teetotalers.
Sunak’s rise to the top levels of the Tory leadership is a testimony that the British people can accept an Asian as the prime minister on the basis of merit.