The most senior British Asian in David Cameron’s cabinet began his first visit to India on Tuesday and paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Indians who served Britain during the First World War.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid took part in a commemoration service at the famous ‘Cross of Sacrifice’ at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the historic Bhowanipore district of Kolkata.
Mr Javid said: “Whenever we speak of First World War, we should speak of one and a half million men of the Indian army who travelled thousands of miles to bravely fight for a country that was not their own.
“Thousands of them did not return home. The sacrifice of the Indian army deserves to be properly honoured and the British government is determined to make sure that it happens.”
Mr Javid also revealed that a permanent memorial to Indian soldiers awarded the Victoria Cross will be unveiled in London in the near future.
“They served with honour, they served with pride, they served without question and we shall remember them,” he said.
The minister also announced that the contentious Mahatma Gandhi statue set for London’s Parliament Square is nearing completion and would be placed next to that of Nelson Mandela.
“I think it (the statue) is a fantastic way to pay tribute to one of the greatest persons to have ever been born on this earth,” Mr Javid said.
The formal unveiling of the statue will coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s momentous return to India from South Africa to participate in the independence movement.
The statue will join those of other iconic figures such as Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln opposite the Palace of Westminster.