The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LORD POPAT

THIS WEEK marks one of the most sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments in the short history of the In­dian di­as­pora in Bri­tain, as our an­nual Di­wali cel­e­bra­tions co­in­cide with the first visit to the UK by the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter, Naren­dra Modi.

For the 1.5 mil­lion Bri­tish In­di­ans, this is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity not only to re­joice the vic­tory of light over dark that Di­wali hon­ours, but also to cel­e­brate In­dia’s grow­ing sta­tus in the world.

More im­por­tantly, it also gives us a chance to con­sider how far we’ve come as a com­mu­nity since we ar­rived in Bri­tain. It seems an ap­pro­pri­ate mo­ment to thank those who have helped us along the way.

When the Bri­tish In­dian com­mu­nity — par­tic­u­larly those of us who were vi­ciously evicted from East Africa — ar­rived here, we were pen­ni­less, some­what down­hearted and in need of in­spi­ra­tion. It came in the form of the Jewish com­mu­nity — where you led, we have fol­lowed.

Many — if not most — of us recog­nised that, like us, many of the Jewish com­mu­nity ar­rived in this coun­try with noth­ing, and were also the vic­tims of prej­u­dice. Yet Jews had suc­ceeded in build­ing a bet­ter life for them­selves and their fam­ily. I hope you won’t mind that we have tried to emu­late the same suc­cess­ful for­mula.

Over the past 40 years it has be­come clear that there is much in com­mon be­tween the Bri­tish In­dian and Jewish com­mu­ni­ties. We share the same val­ues: as­pi­ra­tion, hard work, a be­lief in en­ter­prise, a ded­i­ca­tion to ed­u­ca­tion, the im­por­tance of faith, fam­ily, phi­lan­thropy and com­mu­nity, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, the im­por­tance of in­te­grat­ing into wider so­ci­ety.

You have helped us in so many ways. When I started dis­cus­sions in the Hindu com­mu­nity about se­cur­ing more po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the com­mu­nity, the Board of Deputies was on hand to of­fer ad­vice and sup­port. From de­vel­op­ing our com­mu­nity struc­tures to fos­ter­ing busi­ness deals, the Jewish com­mu­nity has been a great friend to the Bri­tish In­dian com­mu­nity.

Our com­mon­al­ity of pur­pose has also been mir­rored on a much larger scale. In­dia and Is­rael are now firm al­lies, with bi­lat­eral trade ap­proach­ing the $5 bil­lion mark. That fig­ure is likely to be con­sid­er­ably more when the free-trade agree­ment is com­pleted.

Be­yond trade, the In­dia-Is­rael re­la­tion­ship has broad­ened con­sid­er­ably Women at a fes­ti­val at a Hindu tem­ple in Lon­don. The com­mu­nity has strong ties to An­glo-Jewry, while In­dia is forg­ing new links with Is­rael since 1992, with reg­u­lar co-op­er­a­tion on de­fence and se­cu­rity mat­ters. This sort of strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween two demo­cratic na­tions is ex­actly what Bri­tain should be look­ing to emu­late when Prime Min­is­ter Modi ar­rives for his visit.

Last month the In­dian Pres­i­dent, Pranab Mukher­jee, vis­ited Is­rael, the first In­dian head of state to do so. In a sign of Is­rael’s con­sid­er­able im­por­tance to In­dia, he is ex­pected to be fol­lowed be­fore the end of the year by Prime Min­is­ter Modi.

Un­doubt­edly, what we have ex­pe­ri­enced on a smaller scale in the UK, with our shared val­ues and mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion, is now help­ing to un­der­pin a vi­tal diplo­matic al­liance. It is in the UK’s in­ter­ests to en­sure we not only sup­port this friend­ship, but also look to join it.

Our three coun­tries face sim­i­lar threats to our free­dom from ter­ror­ists. We are all great am­bas­sadors for democ­racy and the rule of law. And all three coun­tries are look­ing to de­velop eco­nomic poli­cies along sim­i­lar lines.

In­dia needs ad­vanced agri­cul­tural and wa­ter tech­nol­ogy — where Is­rael is strong — as well as stronger ac­cess to fi­nance, where Bri­tain can help. All three coun­tries are making great strides in bio­med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy, and all are home to some of the most ex­cit­ing in­ter­net and soft­ware start-ups in the world.

I hope that the first steps to­wards a more col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach and a three-way part­ner­ship starts this week. Modi’s visit, in­clud­ing his ad­dress at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, is an his­toric mo­ment for our two na­tions and par­tic­u­larly for Bri­tish In­di­ans. But we must also take the time to re­mem­ber those who helped en­sure that, in the mo­ments of dark­ness we ex­pe­ri­enced when we ar­rived, light once again proved vic­to­ri­ous.

It was for­mer US vice-pres­i­dent Hu­bert Humphrey who once said: “The great­est gift of life is friend­ship, and I have re­ceived it.” The Bri­tish In­dian com­mu­nity has been very for­tu­nate to have the friend­ship of Bri­tish Jews, and we are very grate­ful. May I wish all of you a very happy Di­wali. Lord Popat is a Con­ser­va­tive Party whip and for­mer Min­is­ter for Busi­ness and Trans­port


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