Indian-origin Rishi Sunak set to become Prime Minister of UK | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Indian-origin Rishi Sunak set to become Prime Minister of UK

Oct 24, 2022 11:19 PM IST

Rishi Sunak will be the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and also one of the youngest prime ministers in the UK’s history.

With Rishi Sunak set to become the first Indian-origin Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a lot of the focus in India will be on whether he can pull together a bilateral trade deal that has run into rough weather in recent days because of issues such as migration.

Rishi Sunak leapt ahead in the race for the post of UK Prime Minister after his key rival, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew from the contest on Monday. (REUTERS)
Rishi Sunak leapt ahead in the race for the post of UK Prime Minister after his key rival, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew from the contest on Monday. (REUTERS)

Sunak, 42, will be the first person of colour to assume the mantle of Prime Minister in Britain and the third leader of the ruling Conservative Party in less than two months, reflecting the turmoil that has characterised British politics this year. He will also be one of the youngest prime ministers in the UK’s history, after David Cameron, who took on the job at the age of 43.

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He was born in Britain to parents of Indian-origin, and is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy. He leapt ahead in the race for the post of Prime Minister after his key rival, Penny Mordaunt, withdrew from the contest on Monday.

Sunak was among the Tory leaders who led the revolt against former premier Boris Johnson but was beaten by Liz Truss when the Tory party chose a new leader in September. His emergence as the top contender for the job on Monday was closely followed on social media in India and the UK, with some from the Indian and South Asian diaspora pointing to how society in Britain has changed just 75 years after India won Independence from the British Empire. Others jokingly suggested that Sunak’s first task after becoming prime minister should be to declare Diwali – celebrated on October 24 – a national holiday in Britain.

Also Read | UK PM race LIVE: Liz Truss congratulates Rishi Sunak on being appointed as UK prime minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the world leaders who greeted Sunak. He said in a tweet: “Warmest congratulations @RishiSunak! As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030. Special Diwali wishes to the ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership.”

With India and the UK engaged in the final phase of troubled negotiations for a free trade agreement, there will be considerable interest in India to see whether Sunak, the former finance minister in Boris Johnson’s government, will be able to finalise a trade deal speedily. The negotiations ran into rough weather after former home secretary Suella Braverman – also of Indian-origin – expressed reservations that the trade deal would increase immigration to the UK and go against the goals of Britain leaving the European Union (EU).

Braverman’s comments, which reflected the divisions within the Conservative Party in striking a balance between its promise to counter immigration following Brexit and the need to facilitate the mobility of overseas professionals and students, did not go down well on the Indian side. Though the UK and India had earlier set Diwali as the deadline for concluding the trade deal, it now appears increasingly likely that the FTA will be signed only sometime in 2023.

Besides dealing with domestic problems such as the spiralling cost of living and a massive spike in energy costs, Sunak will have to work to repair the relationship with India and stick to the implementation of Roadmap 2030, which envisages the ramping up of relations in key areas such as political cooperation, defence and security, trade, climate change and health.

Also Read | Meet Akshata Murthy, the millionaire wife of Rishi Sunak

Sunak may also have to cope with the fallout of his wife’s earlier failure to pay British taxes on her overseas income, which had impacted his standing in British politics earlier this year. Akshata Murty owns shares worth £700 million in Infosys and received £11.6 million in dividends in 2021. As a non-domiciled British resident, she was not required by law to pay British taxes on this overseas income but after the matter was raised by Sunak’s political rivals, she decided to pay the taxes as many in the UK “do not feel it is compatible” with her husband’s former role as finance minister.

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