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The Indian Diaspora Has Arrived

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s political ascent is the latest example of a person of Indian heritage rising to global prominence. Ironically, the values and traits that have allowed Sunak and others like him to thrive in the West are the ones that the BJP government now seeks to suppress.

NEW DELHI – Rishi Sunak’s ascent to the pinnacle of British politics has sparked celebrations across India. But while a brown-skinned devout Hindu leading the United Kingdom is certainly remarkable, Sunak’s rise points to a broader, longer-term phenomenon: the growing prominence of the Indian diaspora across the Western world.

This trend has been evident for some time, especially in the private sector, where Indian-born executives have risen to leadership positions at major US-based multinational corporations. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi are probably the best-known examples, but there are many others. According to S&P Global Ratings, no fewer than 58 Fortune 500 companies are currently run by CEOs of Indian descent. This list does not include Nooyi, who stepped down in 2018, and former Twitter chief Parag Agrawal, who was fired last month by new owner Elon Musk. But it is still long and varied, ranging from technology powerhouses like Adobe (Shantanu Narayen) and IBM (Arvind Krishna) to coffee powerhouses like Starbucks (Laxman Narasimhan).

As Sunak’s promotion demonstrates, the phenomenon has crossed over into politics, too. United States Vice President Kamala Harris was born to an Indian mother, and Nikki Haley – a former US ambassador to the United Nations and a potential presidential candidate in 2024 – is the daughter of Indian Punjabi Sikh parents. António Costa, whose father was part Indian, has been Portugal’s Prime Minister since 2015. Ireland’s half-Indian former Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is expected to regain the premiership later this year, owing to a rotation agreement. The thorny post-Brexit negotiations between England and Ireland could soon be conducted by two leaders of Indian heritage.