In this interview, His Excellency Y.K. Sinha, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, talks about India-UK Year of Culture, post-Brexit deal between the two countries and India’s diplomatic presence. Mahima A. Jain talks to the diplomat on his visit to LSE for a guided tour of the two exhibitions titled “Law and Nationhood: India at 70” and “Journey’s to Independence: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh”.
Mahima A. Jain: India and UK recently ended the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. What are your thoughts on how it progressed and what does it say about the partnership?
Y.K. Sinha: I think UK-India Year of Culture has actually, brought home the fact that UK and India are so intrinsically linked and connected. Not just the two countries and the governments but even the people, our culture and history has so much in common. This year truly highlights our special connection. Events organised everywhere throughout the year were absolutely fascinating.
There have been so many institutions like the LSE and others who have contributed to the Year of Culture in their own way. For instance, this exhibition “Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh” and “Law and Nationhood: India at 70” is absolutely fascinating. Some of these letters are truly priceless, and I will certainly try and see if I can get at least facsimile copies of it for our archives and that’s something that future generations will cherish. All of us cherish it, but for them it will be a huge resource for research and to understand those days. So, I think the Year of Culture has been truly fascinating.
I have been here (as High Commissioner) for one year and I have been involved in various events around the Year of Culture, and there are several stake holders The British High Commission in Delhi, The British Film Institue, The British Council, The British Museum. From our side too there are several stake holders who have commemorated this year, and I’d like to thank everyone for it.
MJ: What do you think Brexit entails for India. Will Britain and Inda have a stronger relationship, especially with reports of India’s demand to for UK to accept a high immigration rate?
YKS: I see Brexit, in many ways, an important event for people of UK and Europe but also partners of the UK; and India is among the major partners of the UK. Both the countries and governments have displayed interest and political will to reach a broad agreement on free trade, negotiations, and so on. And of course, negotiations haven’t really started, though we have a joint working group which met three times since Prime Minister May’s visit to India last November.
But I think there are issues on both sides, so I would not like to highlight one or the other, especially when the real negotiations haven’t begun. We also have to see what Brexit deal the UK obtains with the EU.
But obviously, freer movement of professionals and people — I hate to use the word immigration, as some newspapers have quoted me as saying at my recent talk at Chatham House at The Indian Professional Forum that was launched. I never used the word immigration, it’s actually freer movement of professionals and people — is something that we are very keen to keep as one of our important take-aways from any agreement. I am sure, the UK side has their own priorities, so when we actually get down to discussing it. Of course we flag it at every opportunity, and what it means to the importance of freer movement of professionals and people. So I think this is an important issue that needs to be discussed.
YKS: I don’t want to call it a loss for the UK and a victory for India in that sense. Yes, the Indian Judge did win. And the UK candidate did withdraw from many (12) rounds of voting but it became increasingly clear that as far as the General Assembly, which has members from all member states of the UN, India had about two-thirds of the majority. It would have gone on to cross two-third majority in the subsequent rounds, and I think the UK also realised the position that they were in.
In the end, it ended very amicably because the statements made by the UK’s representative in New York and the Foreign Secretary here were very gracious and magnanimous. Also, they highlighted the special relationship between India and UK, so obviously they were sensitive to that. And I think that was greatly appreciated in India. So I hesitate to classify it as a win or a loss.
I think the relationship will only further strengthen. India’s role has obviously enhanced tremendously, not only since 1947, but even since I joined the diplomatic service 36 years ago. There is a huge difference. Obviously, the Government under Prime Minister Narenda Modi has done exceptionally well and the image of India has changed everywhere. I mean obviously India is a rising power and an emerging power and we have a long way to go, we admit that. But India’s time has come really, and we need to show that we can leverage that for our own national self-interest, and of course for the good of humanity and global interest. I think India already plays that role, but I hope India can play a bigger role in the future.
Cover Image: His Excellency Y.K. Sinha, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK at Journeys to Independence Exhibition at the LSE Library Gallery. Image Credit: LSE South Asia Centre/Mahima A. Jain
This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the South Asia @ LSE blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please read our comments policy before posting.
About The Exhibitions
This exhibition highlighted the shared legal background of Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and Krishna Varma. Drawing on little-known documents from their respective Inns of Court, the exhibition narrates the complex process of transfer of legal and constitutional powers from Britain to India, culminating in the magnificent first edition of the Indian Constitution. The exhibition was co-curated by Dr Nilanjan Sarkar, Deputy Director of South Asia Centre, and Dr Charlotte De Mille of Courtauld Institute.
The exhibition provided a British perspective on the Indian subcontinent during the 20th century. It includes material related to the Civil Disobedience Movement, British women campaigning in India for birth control, and the founding of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Also on display are archives demonstrating LSE’s historic relationship with the region, including LSE alumnus and champion of Dalit rights Dr B. R. Ambedkar. This exhibition was curated by Daniel Payne.
About The Authors
His Excellency Y.K. Sinha is the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, and has held several important diplomatic posts in South Asia, West Asia, Europe, South America and the United Nations.