Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Rishi Sunak as UK PM | Will the India-UK FTA finally happ...

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Rishi Sunak as UK PM | Will the India-UK FTA finally happen?

Rishi Sunak is UK’s new Prime Minister. In this episode, Suhasini Haidar will look at what this moment means for Sunak, UK, and India-UK ties.

It has been a week of change in UK’s 10 Downing Street, and a week of celebration for many in India as Rishi Sunak became the country’s new Prime Minister.

This is the first time that a non-white, Asian immigrant of Indian ancestry has done so. Liz Truss, the incumbent who lasted less than 45 days, threw in the towel recently.

Rishi Sunak is the 5th British PM since the beginning of the BREXIT process to be sworn in-

1. David Cameron stepped down in 2016 after a UK referendum voted to exit the European Union

2. Theresa May stepped down in 2019 after losing a number of parliament votes over Brexit

3. Boris Johnson came in, won general elections in 2019, and led the UK out of the EU, but then stepped down in 2022 over a series of scandals over maintaining Covid protocols, called partygate

4. Liz Truss became PM in September after winning the Conservative party election, but stepped down after 44 days, a number of economic missteps and u turns, and the loss of her finance and home ministers in quick succession.

5. Rishi Sunak, who ran unsuccessfully against Truss, became PM this time around because he was the only Conservative who could win the minimum 100 MPs required to support him, in time, and therefore was unopposed for the job of PM.

Sunak has many firsts:

– First, non-white, the child of immigrants of Indian and African origin – His Grandparents were from undivided India, and parents grew up in Kenya and Tanzania. And his wife Akshata Murthy, daughter of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy remains an Indian citizen, which would make his children, the first half-Indians in 10 Downing street

-First Hindu- and other than Benjamin Disraeli, who was Jewish, the only non-Christian to have the job

– Youngest in modern times, since 1783 actually, although Blair and Cameron were 43

– And the Richest ever incumbent of 10 Downing Street, even richer than King Charles III- seen as elitist and part of the Oxford club.


1. The first challenge is from the economy- will Sunak, who was in favour of Brexit now be able to steer Britain through its economic troubles, which are brought on by

1. Brexit- according to the Centre for European Reform in the final quarter of 2021, GDP was 5.2% smaller, investment 13.7% lower, and goods trade 13.6% lower than what they would have been had the UK remained in the EU.

2. Covid- Impact on the economy and National Healthcare System

3. Ukraine war and energy sanctions-impact on inflation, supply chains and trucking routes- and also can he be a war PM – if Russia-Ukraine hostilities further worsen?

4. Political turmoil – impact on the plummeting pound and market crashes

2. Can he deal with the opposition within his party, given that each PM’s mandate has grown weaker, and his colleagues, like

– Deputy PM and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab

– Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt,

– Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

– Home Secretary Suella Braverman,

– And Foreign Secretary James Cleverly

Are all now much more powerful, and have gained weight with their new positions

3. He must also face the major FTA test- crafting a trade policy that is internationalist, and complete the FTA with India, while remaining true to Brexit promises on curbing immigration and growing jobs within the UK. His decision to pick Home Secretary Braverman, and his responses in parliament to her very right wing anti-immigrant policy indicates he will have some trouble choosing.

5. He will have to deal with opposition from within his own party, that wants a candidate in the 2025 elections who is winnable, at a time when Labour is running a 33 point lead over Conservatives, if there was an election today, according to the YouGOv poll last month.

He also has to deal with the idea that while he is PM, he has not been elected by the electorate, nor has he been chosen by the Conservative Party congress- and will face some amount of racism over his ethnicity.


Within his first few days in office Sunak has hit the floor running with India:

1. He called PM Modi on October 27, 2 days after he was appointed, and discussed plans for fast-tracking ties and the FTA. PM Modi is due to travel to London once the deal is done, and although both sides missed the Diwali deadline set by Modi and Boris Johnson, that visit could happen as soon as the Sunak government feels a framework is ready. In addition the two leaders will meet in mid-November on the sidelines of the Bali G20 summit.

2. Trade policy minister Greg Hands told Parliament about the FTA with India, saying that the “ambitious deal” would see more rounds of talks shortly, and that a “majority of chapters” in the agreement had been reached already.

3. On October 28, UK Foreign Secretary made his first trip after being reappointed, to India, to participate in the UN Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee meeting being held in Mumbai and spoke there.

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