India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S. Jaishankar began an official five-day visit to the UK on Diwali over the weekend with a very special tea time invitation from UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Along with wife Akshata Murty, Sunak hosted the Indian Cabinet minister and his wife Kyoko Jaishankar for talks over a specially curated menu from the Michelin-star Quilon restaurant at the Taj Hotel in London, reflecting a fusion of Indian and British cuisine.
India Global Forum Founder & CEO Manoj Ladwa described the prime ministerial invite for the visiting Indian minister as "unprecedented".
He said: "We must not underestimate the significance and timing of India's External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar's visit to the UK over Diwali and the gesture of PM Rishi Sunak to host him and Mrs Jaishankar at 10 Downing Street (well beyond normal diplomatic protocol).
"It demonstrates unequivocal commitment at the very top of both governments to enhance the strategic partnership and conclude talks on the free trade agreement (FTA) which will benefit both nations immensely."
Dr Jaishankar also gifted PM Sunak a bat signed by Indian star batsman Virat Kohli and a statue of Lord Ganesha.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement: “India and the UK have a growing bilateral partnership. During his visit, EAM will be holding discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and will meet several other dignitaries.
“EAM’s visit will give a new impetus to the friendly ties between the two countries.”
The MEA noted that India and the UK share a warm and thriving relationship, revolving around the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was launched in 2021 along with the India-UK Roadmap 2030.
“The Roadmap is a commitment to a partnership that delivers for both the countries,” the MEA added.
As both sides work towards a free trade agreement (FTA), there is some discussion of a possible visit to India by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
In his Diwali wishes from 10 Downing Street, the British Indian leader noted: “Happy Diwali to all those celebrating around the world and across the UK, and a very happy Bandi Chhor Divas to our friends in the Sikh community.
“With the lighting of the diyas, let this be a moment we can look to the future with hope. My guiding light as Prime Minister is the determination to change things for the better, and as a symbol of the triumph of light over darkness, I believe Diwali is a poignant representation of the endeavour for a brighter tomorrow.
“As your first British Asian Prime Minister, and a devout Hindu, I also hope this can be a celebration of the fantastic ethnic and cultural diversity which makes the UK the place it is today.”
Last week, he and wife Akshata hosted a special Diwali reception at 10 Downing Street, attended by members of the Indian diaspora, parliamentarians and also Bollywood stars.
MORE LIKE THIS…