How India has moved on since the Queen took the throne

Britain at this time, although less powerful than at the height of the Empire, was still a major world power. India was just getting started.

How things have changed.

India, meanwhile, aspires to become a world power thanks to its growing economy and young population. Almost half of India’s approximately 1.3 billion people are under 25; many had not even been born when the Queen made her third and final visit to India in 1997.

At the official level, India was quick to pay tribute to the Queen – Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences to Britain and her government declared Sunday a day of mourning.

But for many in the Indian public, his death is little more than a distant foreign report – underscoring how Britain’s relationship with India, once the crown jewel of the Empire, has changed over the of the last 70 years.

Stock exchanges

Certainly, among G20 countries, the UK remains one of the biggest investors in India with British companies employing nearly 800,000 people in the country, according to a 2017 report, and bilateral relations remain strong.

But while British leaders often cite trade with India as an opportunity in the post-Brexit world, Indian leaders are devoting more energy to forging ties with new partners.

When Theresa May became prime minister in 2016, she came to India on her first bilateral visit outside Europe, bringing a large trade delegation to boost business for Britain following the Brexit referendum. And Boris Johnson was planning to visit the country in April 2021 – on what would have been his first trip to Asia since becoming Prime Minister in 2019 – but was forced to cancel after Covid cases soared -19 in India. He then visited in 2022.

By contrast, Indian leader Narendra Modi has visited more than 25 countries, including resource-rich Turkmenistan, before finally visiting the UK in 2015.

Which is logical: in 2000, the British economy was more than three times larger than that of India. In 2019, India overtook Britain in the rankings, according to World Bank figures.

Pass from the past

Meanwhile, UK leaders often speak of the “links of the past, the links of history, language and culture” between the two countries – this comes from a 2013 speech by the UK Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. time, David Cameron.

But many Indians are much more concerned about the future. Take the the idea of ​​the Commonwealth, so often invoked by ardent Brexiteers as an alternative to the EU. In India, we hardly ever talk about regrouping.

Case in point: the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, when Prince Charles was named the Queen’s successor as the ceremonial head of the corps. Modi was there. But the headlines in India were not about the summit events. No. The focus was on Modi coming out at a public event with the Indian diaspora in central London and bilateral meetings with his counterpart at Number 10.

How the Queen's soft power helped keep the UK together

Why? For in an increasingly young and forward-looking India, these “links to the past” are seen, when remembered, very differently.

Following the Queen’s death, several young people who spoke to CNN in India’s capital New Delhi said they associated the monarchy with a violent colonial past.

“If you don’t see people mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth in India, (it’s) because she doesn’t have that connection with the new generation of Indians,” Ravi Mishra said.

“She was in a position of power for 70 years when she could have done a lot. You know, all the harm that the British have done to this country and other countries around the world. She has done nothing.”

Sandeep Gandotra said the British “took everything from India”.

“As Queen of Britain, she might have left a legacy to (Britons), not to India,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth II meets Indira Gandhi at Hyderabad House in Delhi, India in 1983.
A point of contention for many Indians is the monarchy’s continued possession of one of the world’s most famous gems, the 105.6-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond.

The diamond was unearthed in south-central India and passed through the possession of Indian princes and kings before ending up in British hands in 1849.

“The diamond should have come back to India a long time ago,” Mishra said. “But we all know…the Queen didn’t do anything, so I’m not surprised she’s not coming back to the country.”

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Pooja Mehra described the situation as “very unfortunate”.

“A huge treasure has been taken away. I think our current leader is making an effort to bring it back to India. I will be the first to clap, stand up and celebrate,” she said.

And one of the most successful non-fiction books of recent years in India was called “An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India”. (Its title, when published in the UK, was “Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India”.) Written by Indian writer and Congress Party politician Shashi Tharoor, it chronicles how the looting of India by Britain fueled its rising.

The book follows a speech Tharoor gave at an Oxford Union debate in 2015 – arguing for the motion that ‘Britain owes reparations to its former colonies’ – which went viral , with at last count over 9.6 million views on YouTube. Above all, Tharoor was not pleading for a particular sum of money.

“We are not specifically arguing that huge sums of money should be paid. The proposition before this house is the principle of duty of reparations…the question is: is there a debt?… In as far as I’m concerned, the ability to acknowledge a wrong that has been done, to just apologize, will go much, much, much further than a certain percentage of GDP in the form of aid,” Tharoor said.

He added: ‘I personally would be very happy if it was one pound a year for the next 200 years after the last 200 years of Britain and India.

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