UK minister hails India’s Constitution and diversity; recalls Mahatma Gandhi
Tariq Ahmad, the Foreign Office minister in the Boris Johnson government responsible for bilateral relations with India, on Monday hailed India’s diversity by addressing a Republic Day reception with four greetings: ‘Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, As-Salaam-Alaikum, Good evening’.
India, the 1.5 million-strong Indian diaspora in the UK and India-UK relations came in for high praise, with speakers referring to their links with India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of the diaspora being a ‘living bridge’ between the two countries.
The reception including cultural events in Guildhall was attended by leading lights of Britain’s political establishment, such as House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle, Conservative party chairman James Cleverly, besides Ahmad and MPs.
Indian high commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam recalled India’s achievements since the Constitution was adopted in 1950, and noted that they had been made possible by the four principles of liberty, justice, equality and fraternity enshrined in the statute.
She said: “To truly appreciate India’s journey and achievements they must be observed against the backdrop of persistent attempts to destabilise political, economic and social foundations. We have been facing the challenge of cross border terrorism now for over four decades”.
“As technology advances, the faces of terrorism also mutate into subtle insidious forms, false narratives and propaganda are spread to create disharmony, threaten peace and prevent progress”, she added.
Ahmad, who was born and bred in Britain, paid tributes to India’s diversity, and noted that there “is a bit of Made in India in me”, since his mother is “from the soil of Jodhpur” and father’s origins lay in Gurdaspur.
“Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, As-Salaam Alaikum and Good evening: four greetings in four different languages – a reflection of the diversity of the incredible India we celebrate today”, he said, and went on to remind those in government across the world of Gandhi’s words.
“Gandhi was an inspiration not just to the region but to the world. You will see in my office mantelpiece an image of Gandhiji in front of 10 Downing Street. It is a reminder that those who govern should do so responsibly and with humility”.
“I am reminded of one of his many inspirational words, when he said, ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’. It is a poignant reminder to those of us who govern, who have the great responsibility, honour to make policy and have a role in running our great country wherever we may be in the world. His words have relevance as much as they did at the time of the foundation of the Constitution of India”.
According to Cleverly, Britain today has the ‘most desi’ government, with three ministers of Indian origin in the Johnson government: Priti Patel, Alok Sharma and Rishi Sunak.
The gathering included two MPs named as Padma Shri awardees last week: Conservative Bob Blackman and Labour’s Barry Gardiner, besides senior Labour MP Virendra Sharma and representatives of various diaspora organisations and professionals.
Ghanashayam noted that the UK-India bilateral trade is worth over 20 billion pounds and that the UK remains among the topmost major investor countries in india. As many as 832 Indian companies are based in the UK with a combined turnover of over 48 billion pounds, paying over 680 million pounds in corporate tax and employing 105,000 people.