2017: Focus on India grew stronger in post-Brexit UK | Hindustan Times
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2017: Focus on India grew stronger in post-Brexit UK

India is never far from the surface of British public life. From growing Indian investment, to the delights of food, to immigration issues, to renewed trade focus due to Brexit – India has remained in the news.

world Updated: Dec 28, 2017 21:50 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May in New Delhi on November 7, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May in New Delhi on November 7, 2016.(Reuters File)

India has long been held as a country of contrasts, but rarely has the kaleidoscope been more evident than in 2017, when the many colours of its culture burst upon the United Kingdom, but the year also saw its warts bared in a London court.

The main event was the UK-India Year of Culture, which saw a series of events capturing ancient and contemporary India at various levels, as well as highlighting the migration history and achievements of one of the largest diaspora populations based in Britain.

India is never far from the surface of British public life. From growing Indian investment, to the delights of food, to immigration issues, to renewed trade focus due to Brexit – India has remained in the news.

YK Sinha, India’s high commissioner, told Hindustan Times: “This year has been particularly productive for India-UK relations. The India-UK Year of Culture was launched with a spectacular reception hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in February.

“I am sanguine that the new year will further cement our burgeoning partnership, particularly since the UK will be hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.”

The June general election was not good news for Prime Minister Theresa May, who lost majority and had to stitch-up an India-style coalition to remain in Downing Street, but the election saw the number of Indian-origin MPs rise to an all-time high of 12.

May appointed the first Indian-origin cabinet minister, Priti Patel. However, she was out of office by November, having overreached her ministerial mandate as the international development secretary during a holiday in Israel in August.

Given the uneasy relationship with the overseas Sikh community since the events of 1984 in India, there is some satisfaction that the high commission organised a series of events during the year for the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh and a major Baisakhi event in April.

Several British ministers visited India during the year, capped by the visit early this month by London mayor Sadiq Khan. Indian visits to the UK included those by finance minister Arun Jaitley, transport minister Nitin Gadkari, and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Several universities and institutions such as the Science Museum held popular events, coinciding with the Year of Culture, besides an independence gala held in October and the Bharat Symphony in November that showcased India’s culture.

The events made news in the British media, but the critical description of Indian jails, law, the CBI and other issues laid bare during the ongoing extradition case of businessman Vijay Mallya in the Westminster magistrates court made more news in India.

The Mallya judgement is expected in January, but the focus will soon shift to the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, when India is likely to be asked to assume a higher profile in the post-Brexit scenario.

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