- Statue of Gandhi a ‘fitting tribute to democratic India’ says Osborne
- Announcement made on Government trade mission to Mumbai and Delhi
- Comes after ministers announce air-to-air missile deal with Indian Air Force
- Gandhi statue be placed next to British war leader Sir Winston Churchill
- Former Prime Minister dismissed Gandhi as a ‘nauseating’ fraud
A statue of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi will be erected outside Parliament, George Osborne has announced today.
The Chancellor, in New Delhi with Foreign Secretary William Hague, said it would be a fitting tribute to the ‘father of democratic India’.
But the decision to honour the 20th Century’s most famous pacifist came just 24 hours after the Government announced a £250million arms deal with India.
Mr Osborne confirmed a deal to provide air-to-air missiles for the Indian Air Force in a joint venture between BAE Systems, the Franco-German group Airbus and Finmeccanica of Italy.
The two Cabinet ministers are also promoting the sale of the Eurofighter Typhoon jet, which is partly built in Britain. India is looking to buy 126 fighter jets and had identified the French Rafale as its preferred choice.
Yet repeated delays on signing the deal have left Britain hopeful that India may yet opt to buy the Typhoon.
Tushar Gandhi, a social activist and the great-grandson of the independence leader, said it was ironic the ministers had announced plans for the statue during a visit partly taken up with promoting weapons sales.
He said: ‘It’s a nice way to apply a soothing balm to their consciences, to raise a statute. How can anybody say they approve of this?’
But Mr Osborne wrote on Twitter: ‘Gandhi was father of democratic India. Can announce we’ll honour his memory with statue in front of mother of parliaments in Parliament Sq.’
The statue will stand alongside monuments to other statesmen including Nelson Mandela, Sir Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln in the square.
The Government hopes the statue will be erected next year, funded by charitable donations and sponsors, with leading sculptor Philip Jackson approached to take on the project.
Mr Hague said: ‘Gandhi’s view of communal peace and resistance to division, his desire to drive India forward and his commitment to non-violence left a legacy that is as relevant today as it was during his life.
‘He remains a towering inspiration and a source of strength. We will honour him with a statue alongside those of other great leaders in Parliament Square.’
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who is leading a special advisory group to support the project, said: ‘My parents were born in British India with first-hand experience of partition. The effect it had on millions of people contributed to my decision to take up public service.
‘Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s reverence and greatness, a man who fought equally for everyone, in the form of a statue in Parliament Square is a fitting tribute. No matter what your background, history or religion, this statue will allow people from around the world to look upon him and appreciate his endeavour and successes for humanity.’
The Chancellor and Foreign Secretary are in India meeting key players in the administration in New Delhi – including recently elected prime minister Narendra Modi – as well as leading business figures.
They are following in the footsteps of a series of foreign visitors – including the French foreign minister and the Russian deputy prime minister – who have arrived to pay court to the new premier since his landslide victory in May.
Parliament Square in London is home to a number of statues of politicians, including Sir Winston Churchill (above), US President Abraham Lincoln and former Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George
‘I believe there to be no more reliable companion on that journey than the UK,’ he said.
‘Good days are coming for the investment we make in each other’s economies.
‘Good days are coming for the trade between our two trading nations.
‘Good days are coming for the financial partnership we can forge to build, literally, the infrastructure of the future.”
He set out ambitions for London to play a leading role as a gateway for Indian firms to access global capital markets.