Debate of the Week:Is India the World’s Next Superpower?
THE NEWS: Rishi Sunak’s election as Conservative leader makes him the UK’s first British Asian leader. And he has family connections to a country that is quickly gaining influence.
It was a historic moment. Sunak will be the first prime minister of Asian origin, and the first Hindu.
“I am thoroughly British,” he has said: “this is my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian, my wife is Indian. I am open about being a Hindu.” He does not eat beef or drink alcohol.
Sunak has spoken of how both his father’s and his mother’s parents left Punjab and moved first to Africa and then to Britain.
One grandfather worked as a clerk in Kenya and the other as a tax official in Tanganyika. They took their families to England in the 1960s.
His mother ran a chemist’s shop, where Rishi helped out, and his father was a doctor.
Rishi won a place at one of Britain’s leading private schools, Winchester College, but his parents had to make big sacrifices to pay the fees. He ended up as head boy, because – according to a friend – “he was clever enough, reasonable enough and well behaved enough”.
He met his wife Akshata, the daughter of an Indian IT billionaire, while studying in California. The couple have been named as the 222nd richest people in the UK, worth £730m.
He became the MP for Richmond in Yorkshire in 2015. In 2020, Boris Johnson appointed him as chancellor of the Exchequer. Sunak was widely praised for organising Britain’s furlough scheme.
Now he must hope that, with his connections in India and the US, he can strengthen Britain’s links with both countries.
Is India the world’s next superpower?
That is why Britain is so keen to strengthen ties with it. It is the world’s fastest-growing major economy, well-placed for trade with Europe, Asia and Africa. It is also a nuclear power.
More than 20% of India’s enormous population live in poverty. There is also a huge divide, made worse by President Modi, between Hindus and Muslims. It cannot become a superpower with those problems.
Some countries’ biggest export is their talent. Sunak could never have become so successful if his grandparents had remained in India: it does not offer its own people enough opportunities.
Penny Mordaunt-A British conservative politician. Punjab- A state in northern India. Tanganyika- A state in modern day Tanzania that existed between 1961 to 1964. Furlough- Permitted absence from work.