The multifarious ties between India and Britain are headed for a marked upswing. Moments after he met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane, British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Relations with India are at the top of the priorities of UK’s foreign policy.” “Your’s is a very inspiring vision, U.K. wants to partner in any way we can,” Mr Cameron said in another tweet.
The British leader’s enthusiasm seems to be shared across the spectrum in Britain. Soon after the Modi-Cameron meeting, Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org), caught up with UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Baroness Sandip Verma, and found her brimming with enthusiasm about the trajectory of the India-UK relations and the India growth story.
The 55-year-old politician and businesswoman, who has been made a Conservative peer for life, is also a visible emblem of the success of the Indian diaspora in Britain. In this wide-ranging interview with indiawrites.org in New Delhi, the Amritsar-born Sandip Verma speaks about how Britain is eagerly looking forward to offering Prime Minister Modi “exceptional welcome,” the success of the Indian community in Britain and soaring expectations about the India story under the leadership of a reform-minded prime minister.
(Excerpts from the interview)
Q) How do you look at the prospects of the India-UK relations under the Modi government in India?
A) After the elections in India, the first western leader to congratulate Prime Minister Mr. Modi was British Prime Minister David Cameron. I am really very pleased about that as it gives a very clear signal from Great Britain on how we expect a very positive relationship to develop with India. On the margins of the G20 summit in Brisbane, an invitation was extended by our prime minister to Prime Minister Modi again. I am really looking forward to Prime Minister Modi coming to the UK. He will receive an exceptionally warm welcome from us. And we are just waiting for a date from him to come.
Q) What about speculation about Prime Minister Modi visiting Britain early January, in connection with an event related to Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary?
A) I don’t know about speculation. I know we are honouring the great father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi with a statue; it would be absolutely fabulous if Prime Minister Modi would come to the inaugural. I don’t know if that has been discussed here with the Prime Minister’s Office. The inaugural will be January-end. We don’t have the date for the inaugural, but I would love to say that Prime Minister Modi will be there when his very busy schedule permits him to come. But one thing I can guarantee is that the people of Great Britain will give him the warmest welcome that he has probably ever seen.
Q) You have been one of the successful British Indians – quite a few Indians are now moving into politics. How do you look at the rising profile of the Indian community in Britain and their foray into politics, to join the system to make the difference?
A) First of all, now we are an established community in the UK. Many of us go back to three generations, if not four. Britain is a great place of opportunity; it is a wonderful multi-cultural country, cultures of all kinds and religions live side by side. The great thing about the Indian community in Britain is that it has done very well educationally. I am really pleased to see that it is finally looking positively at entering politics. There was a deficit there; there are still not enough people from the Indian community coming into politics. I am encouraging as many people as possible to come forward; I am mentoring ten people myself for the 2015 and 2020 elections because I think it is very important if you are representing communities you have to understand them; understanding cultures or tradition add value to debate. In the UK, new good communities are coming in and are always able to settle down; they not only integrate in Britain but also enrich the country – and that is the strength that we see empowering India where you see an incredibly pluralistic society, where there are so many different traditions and religions living side by side. I think that is something we should value and cherish and celebrate and that’s where we share a lot of similarities.
Q) London hosted a mini Pravasi Bharatiya Divas sometime back. You must have seen the kind of adulation which Mr Modi got at Madison Square Garden from the Indian diaspora in New York in September. What, according to you, accounts for the appeal of Mr Modi and feelings he seems to inspire among the Indian diaspora, in general?
A) I think the fact is that Mr Modi has said diaspora is important to India. He made it very clear, going forward he would like to see greater engagement with diaspora, from the diaspora with the diaspora — that sends a clear signal that we are valued and that value is going to be interpreted as friendship through across India. Mr Modi has been very very clear whether you live in India or you are of Indian origin or whether you live out of India or of Indian origin, you still remain very much a part of relationship of India. I think that is a very positive feeling for all of us to have.
Q) You were a successful businesswoman before joining politics. What provoked you to take the plunge into politics and how do you see the two vocations fitting in?
A) I was a successful business woman because I went into competition with my father, just to make sure I was better than him — that’s one thing he adores me for competing with him, his daughter was the greatest challenger to him.
Mahatma Gandhi said once that if you want to see change, then be it. And that’s what I have done. If I see something wrong, rather than wait for somebody changing it, I get involved.
Q) You spoke about enthusiasm among the new government in the area of renewables and how the British investors are quite upbeat about investing in India. Overall, outside the realm of renewables, how does Britain look at the economic reforms initiated by the new government in India? Is there an enthusiasm in Britain about the India growth story per se?
A) Absolutely, I think India’s growth story is actually linked to a global good story – if large developing countries are doing well they would reach out to countries to invest, they would reach out to invest in other countries — and that’s the economic growth story for everyone, I think it’s win-win if we all get it right.
- India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) is an emerging think tank and a media-publishing company focused on international affairs & the India Story. A venture of TGII Media Private Limited, a leading media, publishing and consultancy company, IWN has carved a niche for balanced and exhaustive reporting and analysis of international affairs. Eminent personalities, politicians, diplomats, authors, strategy gurus and news-makers have contributed to India Writes Network, as also “India and the World,” a magazine focused on global affairs. The Global Insights India (TGII) is the research arm of India Writes Network. To subscribe to India and the World, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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