Rishi Sunak honours 101-year-old Sikh soldier with Points of Light award; enjoys music with Indian diaspora

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak this week honoured a 101-year-old Sikh soldier for his role in World War II and his work in running the Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Association. Sunak also met several members of the Indian diaspora community in the UK and enjoyed some traditional music. These were all events held within the UK-India Week progamme at 10 Downing Street.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Sikh musicians in the gardens of 10 Downing Street, as part of UK-India Week celebrations. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@10DowningStreet

The Points of Light honour was presented by the prime minister to Rajindar Singh Dhatt, one of the last surviving Sikh soldiers who fought in WWII; the honouring ceremony was accompanied by a reception. Dhatt helms the Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Association, which brings together British Indian war veterans. Based in Hounslow, in southwest London since 1963, the soldier was born in pre-Partition India in 1921 and fought with the Allied forces during the British colonial period.

“It is an immense honour to receive this recognition from the Prime Minister, to whom I would like to extend my deepest appreciation for acknowledging the importance and impact of the Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Association,” said Dhatt.

“The journey of establishing this organisation was driven by a deep sense of duty as an ex-serviceman and the vision of fostering unity, support, and camaraderie. This award serves as a testament to the tireless efforts of countless individuals who have contributed to the success and growth of the Association over the years.”

Dhatt joined the British Indian Army during World War II and rose through the ranks, being promoted to Havildar Major (Sergeant Major) in 1943. He was later drafted to the Far East campaign to fight in Kohima, in northeastern India, to support the Allied forces and help break through the Japanese defences, said 10 Downing Street. After the war, Dhatt returned to India before settling in London with his family.

The Points of Light honour recognises outstanding people, whose service is making a difference in their communities and whose stories can inspire others.

Sunak wants ‘truly ambitious’ trade deal with India

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reaffirmed his commitment to a “truly ambitious” free trade agreement (FTA) with India and has indicated his plans to visit New Delhi for the G20 Summit in September.

Rishi Sunak welcomes Indian-origin guests to the gardens of his official residence, as part of UK-India Week celebrations. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@10DowningStreet

The 43-year-old British leader of Indian origin interacted with business leaders and celebrities, including boxing champion Mary Kom; musicians Shankar Mahadevan and Zakir Hussain; Bollywood stars Sonam Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi, on Wednesday evening as part of what he dubbed as a “big moment” in the bilateral calendar and the start of an Indian summer for the UK.

Hosting a special reception to celebrate India Global Forum’s UK-India Week 2023 in the gardens of 10 Downing Street, Sunak said that he agreed with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on the huge potential of bilateral trade ties.

“Prime Minister Modiji and I agree there’s huge potential here. We’re making great progress together on the 2030 Roadmap and we want to strike a truly ambitious trade deal that benefits both our nations, bringing tremendous opportunities to businesses and consumers, both in India and here at home,” said Sunak.

“It’s not just UK-India Week, but a whole Indian summer,” said Sunak on India-UK ties. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@10DowningStreet

“It’s not just UK-India Week, but a whole Indian summer. And I don’t just mean the hot weather we’re having; I mean that over the next few weeks, the eyes of the world will be on India. There’s the G20 in New Delhi, I can’t wait to be there,” said the UK prime minister.

India and the UK recently concluded the 10th round of FTA negotiations and an 11th round is set to begin in the next few weeks.

At the UK-India Week reception, the prime minister was joined by his wife Akshata Murty, and he joked that the garden party was also in honour of his mother-in-law Sudha Murty, who was visiting from India.

“There is so much to celebrate. The links between our two countries are closer than ever. Just look at the Coronation of His Majesty the King. On that most historic day, people of Indian heritage were at the heart of proceedings, presenting the Coronation regalia and as part of the delegation of faith leaders,” he said. “It shows the depth of the bonds we share, the living bridge between our two nations, the thriving business links, and the flow of ideas and investments, all stronger than ever. But of course, we want to do more.”