January 2024 \ Cover Story \ Cover Story

The political desi’s unstoppable rise around the world

By Meenakshi Iyer

New Delhi: In September 2023, Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam joined the growing list of Indian-origin leaders dominating the world politics, just as Rishi Sunak scripted history by becoming Britain’s first desi premier in 2022.

Before him, Leo Varadkar -- born to an Indian father and Irish mother -- took over the reins of Ireland in 2017 as the first Indian-origin Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, and came back for a second term again in the same role in December 2023.

Indubitably, the new generation of emigrants from India has successfully dived into local politics with many like Sunak, Varadkar, US Vice- President Kamala Harris and Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali reaching the uppermost echelons of their countries’ political spectrum.

And as former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy cross swords in the Republican primary debates for the 2024 US Presidential race, it only goes on to show that there is no stopping the 30 million-plus strong Indian diaspora spread across the length and breadth of the world, now.

This is especially true of Indians in more developed countries like the UK, Canada and the US, where their presence in electoral politics is discernibly visible.

As they gain prominence, both in terms of their sheer size and through their economic contributions, the host country finds that it must pay more attention to the Indian expatriate communities, according to Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.



A 2021 Government Leaders list released by the US-based Indiaspora said that more than 200 Indian-origin people occupy leadership positions in as many as 15 countries.

Six countries are currently being led by men who can trace their ancestry to India, including in Britain (Prime Minister Rishi Sunak), Guyana (President Mohamed Irfaan Ali), Portugal (Prime Minister Antonio Costa), Mauritius (Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and President Prithvirajsing Roopun), Suriname (President Chandrikapersad Santokhi) and Singapore (President Tharman Shanmugaratnam).

Besides being the heads or deputy heads of other countries, people of Indian heritage are also serving as members of a government’s cabinet and ministers, diplomats, ambassadors and consuls general, according to the report.

A total of 55 Indian-origin people are serving as cabinet ministers in nearly a dozen countries, and another 63 people of Indian origin are members of Parliament or federal legislators.

A total of 10 people of Indian descent serve as ambassadors of their respective countries, while another two represent their nations as consul generals.