The UK is looking forward to secure a new trade deal with India and work more closely with business communities as it prepares to leave the EU, said Priti Patel, the first Indian-origin minister in the British Cabinet. Patel, the secretary of state for international development, expressed confidence that the “flourishing” relationship between India and the UK will be further strengthened under the “inspirational” leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as she hosted the annual No 10 Downing Street Diwali celebrations in London last evening. “The Indian government – led by the inspirational Prime Minister Modi – has been such a great friend to Britain. Prime Minister Modi has shown great leadership in India over the last three years and has re-affirmed India’s place as a modern and world leading power,” said Patel, who stepped in to lead the event as Prime Minister Theresa May was holding a crucial Brexit meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.
“The Prime Minister is in Brussels negotiating to secure our future and get a brilliant deal for us. And as Britain leaves the EU and embraces the global opportunities that await us as a free, independent and sovereign country, we will look to India to secure a new trade deal and work more closely with business, communities and the government of India,” said Patel, the Conservative Party MP for Witham.
The senior-most Indian-origin politician in the UK government described the growth of India’s middle-class and consumer base as “unprecedented in modern human history” and stressed that she wants Britain to be India’s “first port of call” for providing goods and services. Referring to Diwali as a symbol of the warmth between the two nations, she also hailed the contribution of British Indians for increasingly making an impact on all aspects of British life and achieving great heights in every field.
The Downing Street celebration, complete with lights, shlokas and Indian sweets, marked the culmination of a string of events held over the weekend to mark the festival of Diwali. A special Diwali on the Square brought the Indian festival of lights to the West Midlands region of England with the first-ever event held at the heart of the city of Birmingham in Victoria Square.
This was followed by the London Mayor’s annual Diwali on the Square at Trafalgar Square in London on Sunday, with a special lighting ceremony at the iconic tourist site of London Eye by the river Thames later in the evening.
“Diwali has become such a part of life in Britain. It is no more just a Hindu festival, or even an Indian festival, it is a very global celebration. And, what better place to celebrate Diwali than in the UK with one of the largest diaspora populations in the world,” said Y K Sinha, Indian high commissioner to the UK, who was the special guest at the events.
He switched on the multi-coloured lights for the first “Light Up London” event at London Eye, which was dedicated to the victims of terrorist attacks in London this year as well as the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.
“Whilst these events have been devastating, the emergency services and selfless volunteers were and continue to be the beacons of our society during the times of darkness. “Light Up London – Diwali at the London Eye 2017 is dedicated to the victims and heroes who together have made our country stronger,” said the Light Up London committee in a statement. The Diwali celebrations in London this year will conclude with an annual ceremony in the UK Parliament complex later this week.