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Last updated: 07 Jul, 2024  

iuk.9.thmb.jpg India-UK ties will only get stronger under Starmer, assures Labour Party veteran

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Ateet Sharma (IANS Interview) | 07 Jul, 2024

Labour Party's Virendra Sharma, one of the longest-serving Indian-origin MPs in Britain, believes that the relationship between India and the United Kingdom will only get stronger under Keir Starmer, who took over from Rishi Sunak as Britain's next Prime Minister on Friday.

Sharma, who served as the Member of Parliament from Ealing Southall on five consecutive occasions since 2007 and did not seek a re-election this time around, told IANS in an exclusive interview that Starmer, and the Labour Party returning to power after 14 years is the change that UK badly needed.

Excerpts:

IANS: It is a big day for you and the Labour Party. Even as you head to another victory celebration, how would you describe the mood in Britain right now?

Virendra Sharma: Thanks a lot. Yes, of course, it's one of the happiest days for those who believe in equality, diversity, internationalism, and democracy. Today, democracy has worked and the people of Britain have voted in favour of our party, which is the Labour Party.

I was one of the longest-serving members of Westminster before recently deciding to step down as a Member of Parliament and retire from public life. That does not mean that I will not be carrying on my duties in public to support the new government. We have got the largest majority and with our commitment, dedication, and the visionary approach under the leadership of Keir Starmer, will rebuild the economy and certainly stabilise the world order, including bringing peace in the countries outside Britain.

IANS: Indians all over the world were quite happy when Rishi Sunak came to power two years ago. How are the British Indians reacting to his loss now?

Virendra Sharma: British people, including the Indians living in Britain, saw the work of the Conservative government, whether it was the previous regimes or under the leadership of Rishi Sunak. And the results showed that the majority of Britishers felt very strongly that the Conservative government under Rishi Sunak was not the government they wanted to see.

Of course, you feel happy and proud (to see an Indian-origin leader), but you also look at whether this person will be able to provide us what we want, including stabilising the economy, providing better services, and making sure that the future of the young generation is safe.

The Sunak government failed to provide that. That is why we got this change. People of Britain have shown confidence in the new government and I'm quite confident that the Indian people feel the same way.

IANS: Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoyed excellent chemistry which worked quite well for both countries. Will that continue under the new Labour government or do you expect any changes?

Virendra Sharma: The British government has generally developed a good relationship with India irrespective of changing political complexions. British diplomacy is also quite famous in the world and I think that under the new leadership, we will carry on using those skills.

India and Britain coming together will certainly influence the international framework. I have full confidence that Keir Starmer will continue to carry forward the work. This relationship between Britain and India - the oldest and largest democracies in the world - will only get stronger.

We have regular exchanges and also regular elections to make sure that the people's verdict is adopted. So I feel that under the new leadership and new government, India-UK ties will develop further in the interest of humanity and the people of the world.

IANS: In your opinion, what went wrong for Rishi Sunak in these elections?

Virendra Sharma: I campaigned throughout my life for the better representation of Black and Asian communities in the British political system, and Rishi Sunak came through that system and led the country. While I have full regard for him, I think his policies, and those of the Conservative leaders before him, failed.

People have given a verdict against the political ideology and approach that Rishi Sunak was following. Whether he called elections early or late is a political judgment. You have to take some kind of stand. In this case, his judgment was wrong as far as the Conservatives are concerned.

But, we feel that this was the right time because he had no further vision for the country. And it was the right time to call the elections so that the people of Britain could decide whether they wanted the country to run under the Conservative leadership or they wanted a change, which they got today.

IANS: The going won't be that easy for the Labour government... What are the immediate challenges before Keir Starmer? There's also a big debate going on about immigrants...

Virendra Sharma: Keir Starmer wants to take the country forward. Previous governments have damaged the entire system in Britain, including the economy, police, National Health Service, education, roads and transport. Everything is broken.

Starmer has to first stop further deterioration and then turn things back. We need to have a skilled workforce to do that. So to create that, the government will be seeking support from other friendly countries and getting those immigrants coming and helping us. Just like I came here 55 years ago to support the country and rebuild it after the war.

There are many other areas which I'm sure the government will be looking at. Also, they don't know how much money they have got today. The government will only find out later whether they have the required funds in the Treasury to make the turnaround.

(Ateet Sharma can be contacted at ateet.s@ians.in)

--IANS

 
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