image caption: -ਰਜਿੰਦਰ ਸਿੰਘ ਪੁਰੇਵਾਲ

In a Divided World UK Cannot Afford a PM With Divided Loyalties

So far, none of the candidates competing to become the next UK Prime Minister have impressed the public overtly. Yet, with Brexit still in progress and the Russian-Ukraine war going on, UK is facing a most challenging period in its history. Democratic countries led by NATO and the US, and those led by totalitarian states of Russia and China are the two main blocks now emerging. Most notably, India, now the most populous country in the world having overtaken China, remains undecided.

Earlier in the UK Tory Party leadership race, both Asian-origin chancellors, Rishi Sunak (Indian) and his successor Nadhim Zahawi (Iraqi) have faced difficult questions about their family tax affairs. Zahawi has been eliminated from the race last week. Rishi Sunak and his wife were accused of hypocrisy when the latter avoided an estimated £2.1m a year in UK tax through her non-domiciled status. She owns £700m in shares of the Indian IT giant Infosys founded by her father. Following a public row over her non-domicile status to avoid tax, she has agreed to pay UK taxes on her overseas income,

Rishi Sunak held a US Green Card which allowed him permanent residence in that country while he was chancellor. He returned the Card in October last year, ahead of his first American trip as a UK government minister. This was revealed as he faced scrutiny over the revelation that his wife has been avoiding tax on her overseas earnings.

Candidates aspiring to lead the country should have known that questions about their loyalty and integrity would be asked and their affairs investigated. A committed politician should not show conflict of interest or remain undecided about his future in own country of permanent residence by hedging his bets. It is no use Rishi Sunak accusing his critics of running a smear campaign against his family.

It is not surprising to note that according to Indian journalists, India is avidly watching British leadership race. Rishi Sunak, could be the first prime minister of Indian origin in the United Kingdom. According to an Indian Twitter user, it will be a great feeling to see an Indian as the PM of a country which very ruthlessly ruled India for a very long time! Another Indian industrialist joined a steady stream of social media reaction to the possibility of a British prime minister with Indian heritage. He shared a digitally altered photograph of 10 Downing Street&hellip..with marigolds and mango leaves, symbols of an auspicious beginning in the Hindu religion. Others have run pictures of Sunak under the slogan the Empire Strikes Back.

Indian newspapers continue to cover the Tory Party leadership contest unusually closely. Bearing in mind that Sunak is the son-in-law of Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy, doubts about conflict of loyalties do arise when the need is for robust arms-length trade and political relationship with other countries, including India.

Close associations and family ties with other countries can influence impartial judgement in areas such as trade, international relations. Indirect pressure can be put through family ties to make compromises in areas such as trade deals and to overlook poor human rights record of certain countries.

As loyal citizens, Sikh British hope that Conservative Party MPs and members will select the next person to lead their Party and the UK, wisely.

Gurmukh Singh OBE

Principal Civil Servant Retd