Following what has been an exciting and extraordinary election, with well over 500 million Indian citizens going out to cast their votes, Narendra Modi is now prime minister. We, in Britain, alongside the rest of the world, had been watching with anticipation. This election marks a fresh start for India and a new outlook for the Indian diaspora.
I would like to congratulate Modi on his gaining the largest election victory the country has seen for decades. The BJP winning 282 seats in the Lok Sabha is an impressive feat. This victory demonstrates how the pledges of Modi’s BJP to build a “modern, prosperous and vibrant” India have resonated with millions of Indian citizens. I am sure he will govern with fairness to help to improve the lives of all Indians.
As my parents are from Goa, India is very close to my heart. I have a strong commitment to working to ensure that Britain’s position as India’s best friend in the European Union (EU) is maintained. Emphasising the importance of Britain-India relations has also been a trait of British prime ministers past and present. British PM David Cameron has made numerous visits to India both before, and during, his time in office. He was among the first leaders to congratulate Modi on his election victory and I know that he truly values the relationship between the two countries. This is a continuing historical trend. Tony Blair, former PM, oversaw the sixth EU-India summit in 2005 during Britain’s presidency of the Council of the EU. He also signed the Joint Action Plan in New Delhi on behalf of the EU the same year as part of the strategic partnership to enhance cooperation between India and the EU.
Britain has a shared history with India and is home to the world’s largest Indian diaspora community. It is one of India’s top 10 import and export partners globally and the Indian economy is developing rapidly. However, our relationship goes way beyond trade and the history books. Socially our bond is essential. The British PM has repeated the necessity of encouraging international students, particularly those from India, to come to study in Britain. We also warmly welcome the significant increase in recent years of the number of Indian tourists visiting London and other British cities, while many British citizens enjoy the delights of Mumbai, Kolkata and Goa.
As the longest-standing British Asian MP, for 27 years I have represented in Parliament one of Europe’s most diverse cities. My constituency in Leicester has one of the largest Gujarati communities in the EU, comprising 28% of the city’s minority ethnic population. It is for these reasons that I am fully committed to fighting for causes that affect the large Indian community within Britain. Most recently, I have been working with local retailers and officials on the EU-imposed ban on the importation of Alphonso mangoes from India. I raised this in Parliament and Cameron has agreed with me that it is essential that we work to have this ban overturned immediately. I delivered two of the last boxes of Alphonso mangoes to Cameron at Downing Street, and he concurred that the impact of this ban will be disastrous for both countries, and that these mangoes are too delicious to lose. I plan to travel to Brussels to meet with the European Commission to find out its action plan and the steps it is taking to have the mango ban overturned.
I am looking forward to seeing the product of what I hope will be an ever-closer British-Indian relationship under India’s new government.
Keith Vaz is a British Member of Parliament
The views expressed by the author are personal