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  Opinion   Columnists  21 Oct 2022  Farrukh Dhondy | Will India trade deal survive Liz Truss’ exit? Can Kohinoor help?

Farrukh Dhondy | Will India trade deal survive Liz Truss’ exit? Can Kohinoor help?

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Oct 22, 2022, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Oct 22, 2022, 12:05 am IST

The policies Truss announced are now no longer indications of British govt’s intentions, except perhaps for one — a trade deal with India

Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Truss says she resigns as leader of UK Conservative Party. (Photo: AP)
 Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Truss says she resigns as leader of UK Conservative Party. (Photo: AP)

“Only humans laugh

Only humans feel grief and shame

Oh Saki pass me the full carafe

It’s love and wine that are to blame…”

— From Theyrey Paas Wi-Fi Meyrey Paas Wi-Guru, by Bachchoo

Liz Truss, who resigned as Britain’s Prime Minister on Thursday, remains in office as the acting PM till the Tory Party, which shamelessly clings on to power, despite utterly losing the confidence of the British public, elects a new leader. Of course, the policies she announced are now no longer indications of the British government’s intentions, except perhaps for one — a trade deal with India.

That deal will be pursued by anyone who succeeds her as the UK needs to replace the 40 per cent hole in its imports and exports left by its wilful exit from the European Union. This desperate pursuit has been, in the main, unsuccessful. The United States has said that Britain is last in the queue; Australia says it will continue to flog lamb chops to Blighty. The Saudis will certainly buy weapons. Papua New Guinea and Tahiti haven’t as yet struck a deal — but the 40 per cent of trade that Britain did with the European Union is now a dodo on a respirator.

India’s approach to the deal entailed Britain accepting more students and issuing work visas to Indian citizens. This essential requirement had caused a rift in the UK government. While Trussed-up was desperate for a deal, her former home secretary, one Suella Braverman who resigned earlier this week, setting in train the events leading to the present chaos, publicly declared when she was in office that she was against admitting more Indian students and workers to Britain “because they notoriously overstay their visas”. Jeremy Hunt and Truss, who were desperate for the Indian deal, then forced Cruella to resign.

I don’t rightly know if Cruella’s stance against visas for Indians was reciprocated by India making it more and more difficult for Brits to get visas to visit or work in the land of the Ganga. At gatherings of friends and strangers when such travel is discussed, one inevitably hears about the frustrating difficulty, bureaucracy and period of time it takes to get a visa for India.

Now that the entire British Cabinet is in abeyance, Cruella may well be replaced by an Indophile and then maybe India’s home ministry will consider detoxing the visa process.

And if Trussed-up’s successor then resumes trade negotiations, I have a suggestion for him or her:

King Charles III has announced the date for his coronation — in May next year. It’s to be a relatively modest and multi-faith affair with the parades and pageantry somewhat limited. At the coronation his Queen Consort will also mount a throne and wear a crown which she inherits from the late Queen, her mother and her grandmother.

This crown, gentle reader, has had, from the late nineteenth century, embedded in it as its crowning glory, the Kohinoor diamond. When the coronation was announced and the ceremony was publicly contemplated, the palace, or perhaps King Charles III himself, said that the Kohinoor diamond, solen from India in imperial times, should be removed from the crown. Charles is reputedly apologetic about the nasty and racist aspects of colonialism and the imperial Raj. The speculation that the diamond should be removed before Camilla wears the crown, is in deference to this apologetic stance about the Empire. The stolen token of imperial rule should not still be an emblem of British majesty.

The world knows that the Kohinoor, the mountain of light, carries with it a curse. Lord Dalhousie, who stole the gem from the Punjabi dynasty of Ranjit Singh, was well aware of the curse bringing defeat, desolation and death to all males who possessed it. The fact that Queen Victoria passed it on, not to her son Edward VII, but to his wife, was because she was aware that the curse would not operate on a female possessor of the priceless crystal.

In this day and age, it is perfectly legitimate to wonder if, and to what extent, the curse would operate if the Kohinoor was in the possession of a transgender woman — one who had wilfully transitioned, through hormone therapy and surgery, from being a male to claiming to be a woman.

Camilla is, as far as I know, a genuine woman and wearing the Kohinoor in a crown would do her no harm. So, the contention that it should be removed before next year’s coronation has nothing to do with fear of the curse, but everything to do with not displaying the triumphant spoils of colonialism and insulting the Indian nation. And so, to my suggestion.

The royal family, who own the wretched stone, could go a step further. They could request the new Prime Minister to return the diamond to India and use the goodwill that this would create to further a trade deal with Bharat Mata.

India would certainly welcome the return of the diamond and Narendra bhai, while accepting it, would be well aware of the curse that inhabits it. Putting it in a museum with a male curator may endanger such a person’s life and existence. Better then, to hand it as a gift to a friendly foreign despot of proven vanity who will be unaware of the consequences of accepting it and would wear it proudly on the podium of Red Square in Moscow during the coming retreat-from-Ukraine parades.

Tags: liz truss, tory party, papua new guinea, suella braverman, india