At the India Global Forum’s (IGF) grand Diwali reception in London this week, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman focussed her message of peace and harmony around her laser-like focus on driving down crime for every community in the country. She hailed the enriching influence of British Indians on UK society and also pledged to work towards securing a trade deal with India.
Here is the Cabinet minister’s speech from the most talked-about diaspora Diwali event of the season in London…
India is in my heart, she’s in my soul, she’s in my blood. I’m very proud that my father has his roots and his family home in Goa and my mother can trace her ancestral origins to Madras.
India Global Forum is a real symbol of how great the contribution that British Asians and Indians all over the world have made on the world stage.
Coming from Wembley, the home of the [South] Asian community here, I am very proud to be a member of our British Asian community.
When I have travelled in India, from Kerala to Bihar, from Delhi to Calcutta, I’ve always been struck by is the friendship that our countries enjoy. We have a long history, but it is very striking how fresh and vibrant our relationship always feels.
Candidly, leaving the European Union (EU) means the United Kingdom is better placed to think outside of the Eurocentric mindset, look to every horizon and cherish and nurture relationships with old friends like India.
The points-based immigration system means that we no longer favour people from Europe over people from elsewhere. Meanwhile, around a quarter of all foreign students in the UK are from India.
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Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson spoke of quantum leap forward and under Liz Truss’ premiership, the government is determined to build on that momentum. A year ago, as foreign secretary, she travelled to India to announce a series of technology and infrastructure deals as a major boost to jobs and growth as part of the UK-India 10-year roadmap.
Naturally, there is an economic imperative for our countries to work together, which is why we are so eager to secure a trade deal. But the boost to our economies is not the only virtue in making our friendship even stronger. We have a shared vision that by 2030 we will enjoy an even stronger partnership, which will bolster trade, investment, technology, defence, security, space, climate, energy, health and more.
As Home Secretary, I particularly value the cooperation on security matters between our two countries. This is vital, on a domestic level in India and in the UK but also more broadly on an international scale, especially in the Indo-Pacific. That’s why our governments cooperate so closely in terms of defence and security, on land, at sea, in the air, in space and in cyber. It’s also why I will frequently speak to my counterparts and colleagues from India on a wide range of issues.
Nor must we ignore how closely we are bound together by culture. We consume food, music, movies and art from each other’s countries voraciously. The story of India and the story of the UK are so intimately linked that they are to a great extent the same story.
The contribution of the Indian diaspora to British life is enormous. Our villages, towns and cities have been profoundly enriched by immigration from India. There are many, many people of Indian heritage in prominent positions in politics, business, the arts, the police, the armed forces, civil service, sport and other arts and leisure activities, further proof that this is a country at peace with itself and genuinely meritocratic and welcoming.
Peace and harmony, so essential to Diwali, are something for which all Home Secretaries should strive. That’s why I have such a laser-like focus on making sure the police get the basics right, which means driving down crime for every community, making our homes and neighbourhoods, our streets and transport network safer.
It’s also why entry to our country must be based on merit, not the ability to pay people smugglers, whose wicked lethal trade we have to smash.
India is part of my own heritage, I’m Indian on both sides of my family. My mother came here from Mauritius and my father came here from Kenya. They felt a deep connection and love for Britain even before they came here. It is a love that I share. And, I have never seen any inconsistency in that for no inconsistency exists. I want British people to be able to drink deeply of Indian culture, through visiting, studying and working in India and by throwing themselves into it here.
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Diwali is a terrific place to start – it’s celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists but offers something for everybody. The central message of Diwali, that light will triumph over dark and good will overcome evil is at once comforting and inspirational. It’s a magical time because it manages to encourage both quiet contemplation and to bring people together.
But let’s face it, it’s also a chance to have a jolly good party. So, it’s always time for family, fireworks and delicious food.