THE changing course of time can be understood by looking at the current economic and political scenario in Britain. There was a time when England ruled over India, dictated our budget, and even during the horrifying famine (1943), Indian grain was taken to feed hungry British soldiers, resulting in the death of millions. But today, Britain depends on people of Indian origin for its fundamental institutions, with close to £36 billion worth of business relations, along with contributions in the country’s banking, healthcare, education, hotel industry, and other essential sectors. Indian-origin professionals play a vital role. These relations also have a profound impact on the country’s politics.
The Prime Minister and 15 Members of Parliament of Indian origin take pride in being Hindus. Over the past 45 years, I have had several opportunities to visit Britain, either on private trips or at the invitation of the British Government or Indian Prime Ministers.
This time, after a considerable interval, I had the opportunity to go on a twoweek private journey, which resulted in many pleasant experiences and provided a glimpse of India’s growing social and economic influence. During the trip, I also had the opportunity to have discussions with various experts from different fields, including Mark Runacres, who has previously served in India, and Amish Tripathi, the Director of the Nehru Center and a renowned author.
Raffles in London
In London, a significant transformation was witnessed this month with the unveiling of a grand hotel, the Raffles Hotel. I spent two hours in the hotel’s coffee shop, only to discover that the historic ‘Old War Office’ building has been acquired by the Hinduja family, an Indian-origin group led by GP Hinduja. The Hinduja brothers had previously purchased a substantial residence with 25 bedrooms on Carlton House Terrace in London in 2006 for $58 million. They acquired the former wartime office of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill eight years ago. The former ‘Old War Office’, which is located in Whitehall Building in London, was once the wartime office of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The Hinduja Group, in collaboration with Raffles Hotels, has transformed this historic building into a luxury residence, restaurant, and spa. The construction of the Old War Office was completed in 1906 and designed by British architect William Young. Throughout history, this building served as the offices of several influential leaders, including Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George.
A significant purchase
This building has also been featured in several James Bond film series and was recently shown in the Netflix series ‘The Crown’. The new hotel offers 120 rooms and suites for guests, featuring a large ballroom and renowned chef Marco Calogero preparing meals for visitors. Within this hotel, a heritage suite has been created in the place where great leaders once had their offices. The historic building houses 85 luxury flats, nine restaurants, and three bars.
Winston Churchill is often considered a villain in India due to his responsibility for the devastating Bengal Famine of 1943, which resulted in the deaths of millions due to a shortage of grain. Churchill, during World War II, diverted grain from Bengal to support his soldiers, leading to the severe food shortage. This is why the purchase of his former office by a family of Indian origin and its conversion into a luxury hotel is both intriguing and significant.