How India has progressed since the Queen took the throne

At that time Britain, although stronger than it had been during the Empire, was still the dominant world power. India was just beginning.

How things have changed.

India, on the other hand, wants to become a world power on the back of its growing economy and young population. Half of India’s nearly 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25; many were not even born when the Queen made her third and final visit to India in 1997.

Officially, India has been quick to honor the Queen: Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to Britain and his government declared Sunday a day of mourning.

But for many in the Indian public, his death is little more than news from a distant foreign country, highlighting how profoundly Britain’s relationship with India, once the crown jewel of the Empire, has changed over the past 70 years.

Shopping centers

To be sure, among the G20 countries, the UK remains one of the largest investors in India with British companies employing around 800,000 people in the country, according to a 2017 report, and bilateral relations remain strong.

But while British leaders often cite trade with India as an opportunity in the post-Brexit world, Indian leaders are devoting more energy to building relationships with new partners.

When Theresa May became prime minister in 2016, she came to India on her first bilateral visit outside Europe, bringing a large trade delegation to boost British business after the Brexit referendum. And Boris Johnson had planned to visit the country in April 2021 – in what would have been his first trip to Asia since becoming prime minister in 2019 – but had to cancel after a surge in India’s Covid-19 cases. He later visited in 2022.

In contrast, India’s leader, Narendra Modi, visited more than 25 countries, including resource-rich Turkmenistan, before finally arriving in the UK in 2015.

This makes sense: in 2000, Britain’s economy was three times the size of India’s. By 2019, India had overtaken Britain in the rankings, according to World Bank data.

From the past

Meanwhile, the British leaders talk about the “past ties, the ties of history, language and culture” between the two countries – that is the speech made by the then British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2013.

But many Indians are much more concerned about the future. take it The idea of ​​the Commonwealth, so often invoked by passionate Brexiteers as an alternative to the EU. In India, grouping is hardly talked about.

Case in point: the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London, when Prince Charles was named the Queen’s heir apparent as the body’s master of ceremonies. Modi was there. But the headlines in India were not about what happened at the summit. no Modi’s departure was marked by a public event with the Indian diaspora in central London and bilateral meetings with his opposite number at No 10.

How the Queen's soft power has helped hold the UK together

Why? Because in an increasingly young and forward-looking India, these “past ties”, when remembered, are seen very differently.

After the Queen’s death, several young people who spoke to CNN in the Indian capital New Delhi said they associated the monarchy with a colonial past marked by violence.

“If you don’t see people mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth in India, (it’s) because she doesn’t have that connection with the new generation of Indians,” Ravi Mishra said.

“He was in a position of power for 70 years, he could have done a lot. You know, the British did everything bad to this country and to other countries in the world. He did nothing.”

Sandeep Gandotra said that the British “took everything from India”.

“As the Queen of Great Britain, she may have left some legacy (to the British), not to India,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth II met Indira Gandhi at her Hyderabad home in Delhi, India in 1983.
A point of contention for many Indians is the monarchy’s possession of one of the world’s most famous gems, the 105.6-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond.

The diamond was mined in south central India and passed through the possession of Indian princes and kings before ending up in British hands in 1849.

“The diamond should have come back to India a long time ago,” Mishra said. “But we all know… The Queen didn’t do anything, so I’m not surprised she didn’t come back to the country.”

Koh-i-Noor or "mountain of light"  diamond, set in the Maltese Cross on the front of the crown made for the late Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, in a 2002 photo.

Pooja Mehra called the situation “very unfortunate”.

“They have taken away a huge treasure. I think our current leader is trying to bring it back to India. I will be the first to clap and stand up and celebrate,” he said.

And one of the most successful non-fiction books in India in recent years was called “An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India”. (Its title, when published in the UK, was “Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India”). get up.

The book went viral after a speech Tharoor gave at an Oxford Union debate in 2015 – arguing that Britain owes its former colonies “reparations” – eventually racking up more than 9.6 million views on YouTube. Crucially, Tharoor was not arguing for a certain amount of money.

“We are not exactly arguing that large sums of money should be paid. The proposition before this House is the principle of owing reparation… the question is: is there a debt?… As far as I am concerned, the ability to acknowledge a wrong done, simply to say sorry , will go further than a few percent of GDP, in the form of aid,” Tharoor said.

He added: “Personally, I would be quite happy if it was a pound a year for the next 200 years after the last 200 years in Britain and India.”