Rishi Sunak, the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, is one among many people of Indian origin who lead, or have led, different countries. Akasha Usmani has a succinct list on who some of the most prominent such leaders were, and are.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses a government meeting. The photo is from Sunak's Twitter timeline.
There has been a significant increase in the number of Indians who have attained positions of power in government organizations in various foreign countries. Not only in leading economies like the United Kingdom (which now has Rishi Sunak, of Indian origina, as prime minister), United States, or Canada but also in smaller countries like Guyana, Suriname, and Seychelles. In addition to holding the position of head of state or government, people who are wholly or partially Indian are holding positions of ministers, diplomats, ambassadors and judges as well. At present, eight individuals of Indian origin around the world are serving as acting leaders of the state or government.
The largest diaspora in the world is from India. With 17.9 million Indians born abroad. According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, there are more than 32 million persons who have Indian ancestry. According to Indiaspora Government Leaders List, over 200 people of Indian ancestry hold leadership posts in as many as 15 various countries.
The leader’s Indian ancestry is a reflection of the expanding influence of the Indian diaspora around the world. The Indian diaspora today has become an important and distinctive force in the global economy. They play an important role in building India’s image in the world and help in strengthening bilateral ties with the countries.
Here is a look at some countries in which Indians have held and are holding positions of power.
UNITED KINGDOM - Rishi Sunak's grandparents moved from British-ruled India to Africa, and then his parents (people of Indian origin who were born in Kenya and Tanzania respectively) moved to the United Kingdom. Sunak was born in England and identifies as a practicing Hindu. He took oath of office upon the Bhagvad Gita, the Hindu holy text.
UNITED STATES - Kamala Harris, the incumbent Vice President of the United States of America, has an Indian mother and a Jamaican father.
PORTUGAL - Antonio Costa is the incumbent prime minister of the country. He is a politician and a lawyer who is half Indian and half Portuguese. He is the 119th head of government of Portugal.
Others who held the position of Ministers were - Joao Leao, who was the Finance Minister of Portugal and Alfredo Bruto da Costa, who was the Minister of Health and Welfare.
MAURITIUS - Pravind Jugnauth, a Mauritian politician, has been prime minister of Mauritius since 2017 while the presidency of Mauritius has been led by Prithvirajsing Roopun since 2019. Jugnauth's ancestors are said to have emigrated to Mauritius from Rasra in Uttar Pradesh, in north India. The country had four former presidents and four former prime ministers of Indian origin. While Seewoosagur Ramgoolam and Abdool Razack Mohamed were among the founding fathers of Independent Mauritius.
SURINAME - Chandrikapersad Santokhi made history in 2020 when he was elected president of this South American country, Suriname. In the past, Suriname had four leaders who were of Indian descent in the positions of presidents, prime ministers, and vice presidents.
GUYANA - In August 2020, Mohammed Irfaan Ali took the oath of office as Guyana's ninth executive President. While Bharrat Jagdeo and Moses Nagamootoo have been the former prime ministers of the country, Cheddi Jagan and Donald Ramotar have been the former presidents of the country.
SEYCHELLES - In October 2020, Wavel Ramkalwan took office as president of Seychelles. His win marked the first successful peaceful transfer of power in the nation since independence.
SINGAPORE - Halimah Yacob, the eighth president of Singapore is a politician and former attorney. She served as the nation's parliament speaker before becoming President. In Singapore's history, she is the first female president. Yacob has been in power since 2017. Yacob has an Indian father, and a Malay mother. Many people of Indian heritage have served as ministers, leaders, prime ministers, and members of parliament in Singapore.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA - Sasindran Muthuvel is the current governor of West New Britain Province. He is the first person of Indian descent to be chosen for Papua New Guinea's parliament in 2012. In 2014, the then president of India, Pranab Mukerjee, bestowed upon him the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honor given to an Indian citizen abroad.
Others prominent heads of government or state of Indian origin in the past have been,
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO - The country has seen people of Indian descent hold the positions of President and Prime Minister. Kamla Persad-Bissessar served as Trinidad and Tobago's sixth prime minister from 2010 to 2015. She served as the nation's first female prime minister, attorney general, and leader of the opposition. She was also the first woman to preside over the Commonwealth of Nations and the first person of Indian ancestry to hold the position of prime minister in a nation outside of India and the larger South Asian region.
FIJI - Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, a Fijian politician, was the first Indo-Fijian prime minister in 1999.