Our fan in Britain: Boris Johnson’s love for India

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 14, 2016 18:30 IST
Newly appointed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson addresses staff inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in central London on July 14. (AFP)

Whenever it mattered, Boris Johnson, the rock star British politician and the new foreign secretary of the UK, flaunted his love for India.

As he steps into the new office, hopes are high that he would continue to wear it on his sleeve.

“As the mayor of London, he took his first trade delegation to India, and said and wrote (an article in Daily Telegraph) all right things about India. So he is a known entity to us as much as India is a known entity to him,” said an Indian official who didn’t wish to be named.

When he came to India 2012, on a five-day visit, Johnson said everything Indian’s would love to hear. He was effusive in his praise for everything he saw around.

He even praised the air quality of Delhi, a dread for most foreigners.

Johnson was in awe of the teeming energy of the Indians and the growing ties between the two countries in various spheres.

M J Akbar, present minister of state in the external affairs ministry had then famously commented in his capacity as an editor and commentator “…he (Johnson) has said what the elite here want to hear… It’s not about deeper Anglo-Indian relations or anything like that, it’s just Boris.”

READ: Why Boris Johnson is no stranger to controversies

Then, that is how he played his politics-- with an overwhelming flamboyance.

Perhaps, much similar to his personal life, which often hit salacious headlines.

Johnson has an India connection at another level. His wife Maria Wheeler is part-Indian. She is the daughter of late Charles Wheeler, one time Delhi correspondent of the BBC, and his Sikh wife, Dip Singh.

By many accounts the Indian connection helped Johnson in his political life, especially winning election as London Mayor.

Then Johnson with a wacky sense of humour —during the same visit he said men should never compare his the size of their metro railway systems in a press meet with an Indian minister—knows where the future of the India-UK bilateral ties mostly lies

We’ve made 9 Boris Johnson gifs. You’re welcome!

“…look at that very Jaguar, Indian-owned firm that is made by Brits and exported to China; or look at the JCB 3DX backhoe loader, a British machine made by Indians and exported to Africa”, he had noted.

He had promptly recalled Prime Minister David Cameron made India his first port of call in 2010. And the way he had concluded his Daily Telegraph article said much about the way he would see the future of the relationship.

“But it is the economic partnerships that offer the most extraordinary prospects. Imagine selling a Jag to one in every 100,000 Indians. That’s a lot of Jags, and a lot of jobs.”

Britain remains the third largest FDI investor to India and India invests more in UK than it has invested in rest of Europe. India overtook 122 FDI projects in UK in 2014-15, which made it Britain’s third largest source of foreign investment.

“The UK remains an important partner for India and vice-versa. That will continue to be the same. We always talk about personal chemistry between leadership, how a particular leader has a thing for India etc. but in diplomacy great leaders manufacture personal chemistry,” says Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary who had also served as Indian envoy to the UK.

Post Brexit, Mansingh reckon, there are more opportunity for two countries to work together.

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