Evening Standard comment: India has changed beyond recognition — and so have fortunes of its expats here

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Much has been written about the vast changes India has gone through in the 70 years since winning freedom. But a little-told story is the quite dramatic change in the profile of Indians in Britain

A classic illustration of this came two months ago in London when Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team, held a glittering black-tie ball at the Honourable Artillery Company.

This was Kohli using the Indian diaspora to raise money for charitable causes in India, the “manifestation of a dream to inspire and bring about a transformative change to the future of the country”.

It cost £5,950 to hire a table for 10, for which you also got to sit with an Indian player. The evening raised some half a million pounds.

Kohli was following in the footsteps of his predecessor MS Dhoni who, six years ago, held a similar charity event in a Park Lane hotel and raised almost a million.

The guests at Kohli’s ball included Vijay Mallya, a businessman and politician, currently on bail fighting the Indian government’s attempt to extradite him on charges of financial crimes. He had come, he said, to support Indian cricket. 

What a change from the London I came to in 1969 to study. Then Indians were mostly of peasant stock from Punjab living in “little India”, as Southall was called. I doubt if any of them owned a black tie and the idea of tapping them for money would have been unimaginable.

Celebrating independence: A flag hoisting ceremony during India’s Independence Day celebrations in Ahmedabad (Reuters)

This change in economic status has been matched by a revolution in political allegiance.

In 1972 my landlady, rebuking me for reading the Guardian instead of her favourite newspaper the Daily Telegraph, said: “You must not believe Labour propaganda that they gave India freedom. Churchill would have done the same had he won the 1945 election.”

Indian students perform in a cultural program during the India’s Independence Day celebrations in Bangalore (EPA)

Modern Conservatives do not need to spin Churchill’s views to secure Indian support.

The 2015 election saw Tories win a million ethnic minority votes for the first time at Labour’s expense and a post-election survey by British Future showed the Tories enjoyed an eight percentage point advantage over Labour among Britain’s Hindu and Sikh communities. 

At Kohli’s ball it was hard to believe that any of the Indians there were  Corbynistas. As India grows prosperous, Indians in Britain are charting a very new course with their adopted country.

Mihir Bose is the author of From Midnight To Glorious Morning? India Since Independence

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