Sixty-seven years after he led India to freedom from British rule, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi will be installed at Parliament Square in London by early next year.
British foreign minister William Hague and chancellor of exchequer George Osborne, who are on a visit here, on Tuesday announced the plan for the statue of Gandhi, the inspiration for non-violent civil rights movements around the world.
“Gandhi’s view of communal peace and resistance to division, his desire to drive India forward, and his commitment to non-violence left a legacy that is as relevant today as it was during his life,” Hague said.
They made the announcement while visiting Gandhi Smriti, the Gandhi Memorial.
India’s independence hero will rub shoulders with his one-time nemesis, British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, who famously derided him as a “half-naked fakir”.
The Gandhi statue will also stand alongside one of Jan Smuts, a leader of South Africa in the early 20th century who favoured racial segregation, who had jailed Gandhi for campaigning for the rights of downtrodden Indians, a forerunner to his more famous non-violent campaign at home.
The Gandhi statue fits a pattern of Britain reviving — and appearing to atone for — its colonial past in India during visits by senior figures.
In February last year Prime Minister David Cameron visited the site of a 1919 massacre in which troops under British control gunned down hundreds of unarmed protesters.
He described the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in the city of Amritsar as “shameful” but stopped short of a public apology.
Meanwhile, India and UK decided to launch negotiations on a civil nuclear deal and decided to step up the economic linkages after a meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her British counterpart William Hague.
During the meeting with Swaraj, Hague also pushed for sale of its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) despite its Eurofighter Typhoon losing out to France’s Rafale.
The two sides also discussed ways to enhance trade ties with India inviting British companies to invest in its Bangalore-Mumbai Economic Corridor infrastructure project.
By November, India is expected to give a “perspective plan” to the UK presenting various “nodes” where they can invest, according to officials.
(with agency inputs)