Updated: July 25, 2019 7:28:17 am
The unconventional British politician Boris Johnson has won the race within the Conservative Party to become the country’s Prime Minister, thus taking charge of the contentious Brexit process that the UK has been grappling with ever since the 2016 referendum. Who is Britain’s Prime Minister-elect and what is his India connection? The Indian Express explains.
Coming from a wealthy background, Boris Johnson attended expensive private schools during his childhood, and went on to study at Oxford. A favourite of the ultra-right faction within the Conservative Party, Johnson has not refrained from taking potshots at burqa-clad women, Africans, or even former US President Barack Obama, who he said harboured an “ancestral dislike” of Britain.
Being the mayor of London between 2008 to 2016, Johnson subsequently became the UK’s Foreign Secretary (equivalent to the External Affairs Minister of India) for almost two years, a position in which he left an imprint on British foreign policy vis-à-vis several countries, including India.
Explained | Boris Johnson is UK Prime Minister. What now?
On one of his visits to the country, Johnson called India “a wonderful, beautiful, and thriving country”. Johnson’s recently estranged spouse Marina Wheeler, whom he married in 1993, has Indian ancestry, and Johnson has visited India on numerous occasions over the years.
Wheeler is the niece of author Khushwant Singh, and the granddaughter of Sir Sobha Singh, one of the major contractors who built Lutyens’s Delhi.
In a column for The Tribune, the veteran journalist and Wheeler’s relative Rahul Singh said: “[Boris] loves India, and knows India pretty well through his marriage… Marina must have been a great asset to Boris in his political ascent to foreign secretary and, perhaps, now as Prime Minister.”
On Prime Minister Modi
Johnson was reported to have referred appreciatively to the Indian PM as a “firecracker” and a “political phenomenon”, and appeared to have been impressed with the size of a rally that Modi held at Wembley in the UK in 2015.
During a recent visit to India, when Johnson was asked whether he wanted to become the Prime Minister of Britain, the flamboyant leader said: “I would say Narendra Modi has as much chance as I have of being Prime Minister of the country judging by his performance in Wembley.”
On the Pulwama attack
Johnson expressed outrage at the suicide bombing carried out by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad in Pulwama this February. However, he also said that Pakistan PM Imran Khan “behaved sensibly and prudently” thereafter, and praised the Pakistani decision to release captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
On trade ties with India
On the backdrop of the strenuous Brexit negotiations, the UK is now looking out for new trade deals with its global partners.
Currently, India-UK trade is worth over $19.7 billion, a number that Johnson appears to be keen at raising. In the G-20, the UK is the biggest investor in India.
Johnson recently decried the restrictions on FDI in multi-brand retail in India, saying that popular British brands such as Sainsbury would be able to excel in the Indian market if allowed to enter. Johnson has also spoken of signing of a free trade agreement with India.
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