Wednesday, 30 November, 2022
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Besides Rishi Sunak, who are other world leaders of Indian origin?

In just six weeks, the United Kingdom saw two prime ministers — Boris Johnson and Liz Truss — leave their posts amid inflation rising to a 40-year high. This week, Rishi Sunak, ex-chancellor of the exchequer, was officially appointed as the UK's PM, becoming the first non-white politician ever to hold the position.

42-year-old Rishi Sunak is making headlines as a sensation after becoming the first person of Indian origin to take over the UK's Tory leadership amid a major economic and political crisis in the country.

Sunak, a practicing Hindu and the youngest British PM in over 200 years, has been a Member of Parliament since 2015 and first served as chief secretary of the treasury from 2019 to 2020. He then held the post of chancellor of the exchequer from 2020 to 2022.

But surely, he is not alone on the list of world leaders with Indian background to have held key political roles: here is a look at just a few of politicians and diplomats with roots in India and leading the political front worldwide.

Kamala Harris, US Vice President

Born in California to a family of migrants — a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Kamala Harris is both the first woman and first person of color to become US vice president.

Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a breast cancer researcher, brought her and her sister Maya up as a single mother after moving to the United States from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to get a degree, although she has also worked as a civil rights activist.

In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, Harris was vocal about her ties to Indian culture and respect for Indian heritage.

She visited India to meet her grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, an Indian civil servant with a decades-long career who took part in the country's independence movement.

Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius

Hailing from a family of politicians, Pravind Jugnauth has been the prime minister of Mauritius since 2017, leading the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM) party since April 2003.

Jugnauth was born into a Hindu family of Ahirs. His ancestors hail from India's state of Uttar Pradesh. In the 1870s, his great-grandfather migrated to Mauritius.

Gurukul School of Art teacher Sagar Kambli makes a painting to Congratulate New British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.10.2022

While his mother, Sarojini Ballah, was a school teacher, his father, Anerood Jugnauth, a barrister-turned-politician, founded the Militant Socialist Movement party in 1983 and served both as president and prime minister of Mauritius.

Jugnauth assumed the country’s leadership from his father, who resigned in 2017.

During a visit to India this year, Jugnauth reached his ancestral home in Uttar Pradesh in a bid to develop closer ties and strengthen overall bilateral relations with India.

Antonio Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal

Of Portuguese and Indian descent, Antonio Costa became the prime minister of Portugal in 2015 and is now serving his third tenure in this position.

Costa's paternal grandfather, Luís Afonso Maria da Costa, was from India's Goa union territory, which was under Portuguese colonial rule from 1505 to 1961.

His father, Orlando da Costa, was a prominent Portuguese writer from Goa, and his mother, Maria Antónia Palla, was a Portuguese journalist.

Although Costa was born in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, he grew up in Goa. His family, however, then emigrated to Portugal after India liberated Goa from colonial rule in 1961.

Costa actually has a Goan nickname - "Babush," which means "a young loved one" in Konkani, an Indo-Aryan language spoken mostly along the western coastal region of India.

Meanwhile, Costa’s extended family continues to live in his 200-year-old ancestral home in Goa's Margao city.

Prithvirajsing Roopun, President of Mauritius

Born into an Indian Arya Samaji Hindu family, Prithvirajsing Roopun, also known as Pradeep Singh Roopun, has served as the seventh president of Mauritius since 2019.

His great-grandfather moved to Mauritius. A lawyer-turned-politician, Roopun grew up in Morcellement St. Jean, a suburb of Quatre Bornes in Mauritius.

After working as a mathematics teacher, Roopun was admitted to practice as an attorney at law in 1986.

He also worked as a part-time lecturer in law at the University of Mauritius and was a member of the Board of Examiners Council of Legal Education before joining politics and contending in his first elections in 1995.

Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of Suriname

Born in 1959 into an Indo-Surinamese Hindu family in Suriname's Lelydorp city, Chandrikapersad "Chan" Santokhi is a former police officer-turned-politician who was elected as the president of the country in 2020.

Many Indians, including Santokhi's ancestors, migrated and settled on Dutch plantations in Suriname during British rule (1858-1947) and have since then stayed on due to the liberal policies of the country, which allows them to practice their religion.

From the age of 23, Santokhi worked as a police inspector, until he was appointed head of the national criminal investigation department in 1989 and promoted to commissioner of police in 1991.

He took a leap to the political forefront by joining the Progressive Reform Party and was elected minister of justice and police in 2005, after which he came into the limelight for making a carrying out crackdown on drug trafficking and smuggling.

After becoming the president, Santokhi left everyone spellbound by taking an oath in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit while holding the holy book the Vedas and reciting verses along with a priest.

Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana

Born into a Muslim Indo-Guyanese family in Leonora town in the South American country of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali was sworn in as the nation's ninth executive president on August 2, 2020.

Dr. Ali holds a doctorate in urban and regional planning from the University of the West Indies and served as project manager of the Caribbean Development Bank.

In 2006, Ali forayed into politics and became a member of the National Assembly of Guyana, overseeing the Ministry of Housing and Water and Ministry of Tourism and Commerce.

Anita Anand, Defense Minister of Canada

Indian-origin Canadian politician Anita Anand replaced Canada's long-time Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan after she was appointed by Justin Trudeau during a reshuffle of the Cabinet last year.

Anand's family roots lie in India, as her father was from Tamil Nadu state and her mother was from Punjab. Both were physicians.

Born in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Anand was a law professor at the University of Toronto and was appointed to the Government of Ontario's Expert Committee in 2015 to Consider Financial Advisory and Financial Planning Policy Alternatives.

Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development of Canada

Born in the Hoshiarpur district of India's Punjab state, the family of Harjit Sajjan, who is Canada's current minister of international development, emigrated to Canada in 1976 when he was just five years old.

Sajjan spent his early years in Vancouver South and studied at Charles Tupper Secondary School in central Vancouver.

He went on to become a detective in the Vancouver Police Department and was a lieutenant colonel in the Canadian Army before turning to politics.

He rose to become Canada's first Sikh minister of national defense, and was also the first Sikh to command a Canadian Army reserve regiment.

Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore

58-year-old Halimah Yacob became the first female president of Singapore. Before that, she was a member of Singapore's People's Action Party (PAP).

Born to an Indian-Muslim father and a Malay mother, Yacob went on to become a labor lawyer and is now also a mother of five.

She entered politics in 2001 to become the first female speaker of Singapore's parliament. Since then, there has been no looking back for Yacob, who has served as the country's eighth president since 2017.

Wavel Ramkalawan, President of Seychelles

An Indian-origin Anglican priest, Wavel Ramkalawan has served as president of Seychelles since October 2020.

Born in Mahe, the principal island of Seychelles, Ramkalawan's grandfather hailed from the town of Gopalganj in India's Bihar state and migrated to East Africa. Ramkalawan's father was a tinsmith and his mother was a teacher.

According to media reports, Ramkalawan was ordained as a priest in 1985 following theological studies at St. Paul's Theological College, Mauritius, and it was his assignment as a priest that led Ramkalawan into politics.

 

Source: Sputnik