How Gandhi became George Osborne's hero

Mahatma Gandhi

That Mahatma Gandhi will be commemorated with a statue in Parliament Square is perhaps extraordinary - given that he was the leader of the nationalist movement against British rule in India.

But the whole thrust of British diplomatic relations these days with India is to build bridges with the world's second most populous country - in large part because of the important opportunities that may become available for British businesses.

The plan for a Gandhi statue, to be installed next year, has been announced in Delhi by the chancellor and foreign secretary.

George Osborne said it was fitting that "the father of the world's largest democracy should take his place in front of the mother of parliaments" (though the chancellor presumably knows the House of Commons is not the mother of parliament, in John Bright's original formulation; England is).

Whether Mahatma Gandhi would have thought it fitting is another matter.

Later today, Mr Osborne and William Hague will meet the new Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, with the hope that he will agree to a communique on strengthening and deepening commercial relations between India and Britain.

But the British government and Narendra Modi have not always been the best of friends, because in 2002 the UK helped to organise an effective ban on Mr Modi travelling to Europe - after Mr Modi was accused of not doing enough to prevent a brutal massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, where he was chief minister.

In 2012, the UK made a rapprochement with Mr Modi, when his ascent in Indian politics became hard to ignore.

And although there have been concerns that Mr Modi might hold a grudge, everything is apparently forgiven and forgotten - on both sides.

If there is some sort of parallel with the way Britain over a much longer period has gone from seeing Gandhi as enemy to hero, Messrs Osborne and Hague will hope that Mr Modi approves.

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Why not Gandhi.. It is to commemorate the fact the Sun of the Queen's empire that never never used to set was finally set by this man. And good it was for the Queen so that she has a small nation to manage now. A well managed one needless to say with an economy lesser in size than the country it once ruled on. Its called irony of fate. Rest you all know how it feels to be third grade superpower

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    123BillyB @132
    "if Britain

    Why should a sub-continent with attempted civilisation over more than 5,000 years, with the lessons of endless failure to bring peace (whether by religion or civil war or conquest or the sham democracy of Victorian Britain), now see Britain as 'bridge-building' in Gandhi's vein? Palestine needs a world of equal partnership, Jews & Arabs THEN to 'risk' the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    If Britain is genuine about building bridges after the disastrous exit that left the nation fighting each over to the point of separation and this isn't just a token gesture to drum up trade, how about next fixing what they started in Palestine all those years ago?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    So if in the future there is the possibility of a serious boost in trade with other countries, are we going to continue this trend? Will Parliament Square's fixtures grow to rival Madame Tussauds?

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    More political pandering before an election here in the UK, the current generation of Tory toff do give a fig for anyone apart from being re-elected.
    at any cost to the UK


Comments 5 of 134


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