“We know the UK-India relationship is important. We represent the living bridge between our two countries,” said Sunak, in response to a question about the UK-India relationship coordinated by Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) Co-Chair Reena Ranger.
Addressing a diaspora gathering in London this week, the former Chancellor went on to highlight that there is an “enormous amount” the UK can learn from India.
“I want to make sure that it’s easy for our students to also travel to India and learn, that it’s also easy for our companies and Indian companies to work together because it’s not just a one-way relationship, it’s a two-way relationship, and that’s the type of change I want to bring to that relationship,” he said.
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The special hustings event by CFIN at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in Harrow was complete with dhol beats and lassi, with Sunak greeting hundreds of British Indians with namaste and also some Gujarati with kem cho and Punjabi with kidda.
“It’s a privilege to be here because aap sab mere parivar ho (you all are my family)," he said in Hindi.
And, the crowd responded with loud cheers and applause and also queued for hours later to get a chance to shake hands and pose for pictures with Britain’s first Indian-origin prime ministerial candidate – going head to head with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the race to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader.
Amita Mishra, Trustee of Shree Jagannatha Society UK, presented the finalist with a set of gold-plated deities as a blessing from India.
“We are working on creating a Jagannath Temple in London and this gift is a special blessing all the way from India,” said Mishra, who was joined by a pandit who performed a victory shloka from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ as the gift was handed over to Sunak on stage.
Sunak seemed at ease amid the large gathering at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in Harrow as the elderly in the crowd showered him with blessings, others patted him on the back and eight-year-old Tanish Sahu even got a picture in his arms.
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CFIN, which spells out its mission as “developing stronger links between the Conservative Party, British Indians and India”, held a similar hustings event with Liz Truss earlier this month.
“Whoever is the winner on September 5th – the third female Prime Minister of the country or the first British Indian one – we have already won the argument on inclusivity and diversity in the Conservative Party,” said CFIN Co-Chair Ameet Jogia.