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After upping India ties, Cameron holds last cabinet meet

world Updated: Jul 12, 2016 22:19 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prime Minister David Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron is seen during a visit to Reach Academy Feltham in southwest London on Tuesday. Cameron chaired his final cabinet meeting on Tuesday after six years as Britain's premier. (AFP)

After raising the profile of India-UK relations since 2010 through what he called a ”new special relationship“, Prime Minister David Cameron chaired his last cabinet meeting on Tuesday before leaving office.

A focus on India was often mentioned by former Labour governments led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but it was Cameron who took relations to a new level, which included lifting in 2013 a decade-long boycott of Gujarat under Narendra Modi after the 2002 riots.

Cameron, who will be succeeded by Theresa May on Wednesday evening, visited India three times since 2010 and pulled out all stops to make Prime Minister Modi’s November 2015 visit to London a success. During his first visit, he delighted many by warning that Pakistan could not “look both ways” on the issue of terrorism. 

Britain's Indian community has traditionally been Labour voters, but Cameron met with some success in wooing the crucial vote after he took over as Conservative leader in 2005.

He joined large gatherings of spiritual leaders such as Morari Bapu and often visited temples and gurdwaras during elections. He also appointed minister of state Priti Patel as the “Indian diaspora champion” to espouse the cause of the community.

Cameron launched the initiative to install a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square days before the May 2015 elections, and often extended Britain’s support to India’s bid to become a member of the UN Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The cabinet meeting at 10, Downing Street was “quite emotional”, according to ministers, with “wonderful tributes” paid to Cameron, led by prime minister-in-waiting May and chancellor George Osborne.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "There was a feeling across the cabinet of great pride at what David Cameron has achieved over the last six years, sadness that it has ended, in a way, perhaps much quicker than people thought. But also huge gratitude to him for what's he achieved for the country and the way he's changed the Conservative Party."

Cameron stepped down on June 24 after a referendum produced a vote to leave the European Union. He will appear at his last Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, and then travel to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation.

Soon after, May will meet Queen Elizabeth and return to Downing Street as the new prime minister tasked with leading Britain out of the EU.