Home India News Remembrance Day: UK backs India’s Security Council aspirations

Remembrance Day: UK backs India’s Security Council aspirations

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Britain renewed its support to India’s ambition to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council as a host of politicians joined ex-servicemen and Indian community members here to praise the massive sacrifices made by Indians in the two world wars.

Britain’s minister for international development Gareth Thomas was dispatched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to a crowded Remembrance Day meeting Wednesday in the House of Commons and extol “the huge contributions of Indians who came forward to defeat a fascist state”.

“We must not also forget the current generation of Indian troops fighting for peace around the world as UN peacekeepers. One reason the UK supports India’s inclusion in the UN Security Council is India’s continuing preparedness to make contributions to the UN peacekeeping efforts,” said Thomas, speaking on behalf of Brown.

“These Indian soldiers are in harm’s way tonight serving the international community, just as UK troops are in harm’s way in Afghanistan,” he added.

Meetings were also held at the Cenotaph in central London – the traditional spot for paying homage on Remembrance Day, observed every Nov 11 to remember the war dead on the anniversary of signing of the armistice that brought an end to World War 1.

Accurate figures are hard to come by, but Kusoom Vadgama – a veteran London-based expert on the subject – said 53,486 Indian soldiers died, 64,350 were wounded and 2,937 were missing in the First World War.

And although Indians were not consulted when the British declared war on their behalf in 1939, India raised a massive volunteer force of 2.5 million men for the Second World War – the largest in history.

In WWII, 36,092 Indians were killed or missing, while 34,354 were wounded. In both wars, Indians won a total of 43 Victoria Crosses – Britain’s highest military decoration.

In addition, speakers said, millions of Indian civilians died in the two world wars, including some three million in the 1943 manmade famine that was the direct outcome of British wartime policies.

Speakers at the House of Commons event – organised by the National Council of British Indians – also included Sailesh Vara, the deputy leader of the Conservative Party in the British parliament, Labour MPs Ashok Kumar, Barry Gardiner and Virendra Sharma, Baroness Shreela Flather of the Conservative Party and India’s Deputy High Commissioner Ashoke Mukherjee.

“We must never forget the Indian war dead because they died to win us the freedoms that we enjoy today,” Vadgama said.