Rishi Sunak has said he feels like “India’s son-in-law” ahead of his return to the nation that is “very near and dear” to him.
The Prime Minister, Britain’s first leader descended from the commonwealth country, is landing in New Delhi later this morning for the G20 summit where he will meet with the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
He is accompanied by his wife Akshata Murty, daughter of one of India’s richest men, who was born and grew up there.
Speaking to reporters on the plane last night, he called it “special” to be returning.
He said: “I’ll be visiting a country that is very near and dear to me. I haven’t been back for a few years.
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“I was meant to go actually in 2020 – we take our family typically in February half term every year – and I got made Chancellor right before and I didn’t get to go with the rest of my family then so I haven’t been for a little while.
“It’s obviously special.
“I saw somewhere that I was referred to as India’s son in law, which I hope was meant affectionately. But look I’m excited to be back. It’s nice to have Akshata with me as well.”
Mr Sunak’s paternal grandfather was from Gujranwala, in present-day Pakistan, while his maternal grandfather was from Ludhiana, now India. Both cities at the time were in Punjab province, British India.
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His grandparents migrated to East Africa, and then to the UK in the 1960s.
His wife Akshata is also the daughter of NR Narayana Murty, the founder of Indian IT giant Infosys and a major figure in the country.
Downing Street called his trip “historic” and said it would be “a powerful reminder of the living bridge between the two countries”.
Mr Sunak views the Summit as a chance to discuss global issues, including climate change and new technology.
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He said: “I look forward to engaging with everybody on the issues that matter to the UK and where we can make progress on things that are important to the British public and to the government.”
He has also vowed to use the summit to “call out” Russia for the “suffering” it is inflicting on Ukrainians and millions of the world’s poorest people.
On the plane, he slammed Vladimir Putin for refusing to attend the summit, the second year in a row that the despot has missed the powerful gathering.
Mr Putin has sent foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to New Delhi in his absence.
The Prime Minister said the Russian leader was steering clear of confrontation with the West following his invasion of Ukraine because he “doesn’t want to be held accountable”.
Asked by reporters whether he had a message for Mr Lavrov at the G20, he said: “When it comes to Lavrov, the message is, the fact that Putin is not there demonstrates his isolation in the global community.
“He wasn’t there last year, he is not there this year to answer for what he is doing.
“He doesn’t want to be held accountable.”
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