Indians embrace next UK prime minister, Sunak, as their own

Oct 23, 2022, 8:34 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2022, 8:11 pm

FILE - Liz Truss, right, and Rishi Sunak on stage after a Conservative leadership election hustings...

FILE - Liz Truss, right, and Rishi Sunak on stage after a Conservative leadership election hustings at Wembley Arena in London, Aug. 31, 2022. Rishi Sunak, the former British Treasury chief who won the race to be leader of the Conservative Party and is likely to become the country’s next prime minister, is getting cheers from an unlikely place: India, its former colony. Social media and TV channels in India are awash with comments and reactions to the accomplishment by the 42-year-old who has spoken publicly about his Indian roots and Hindu faith. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

NEW DELHI (AP) — The next prime minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, has embraced his Indian and Hindu heritage — and on Monday, people across the former British colony proudly celebrated his victory.

Social media and TV channels in India were awash with congratulations for the 42-year-old Sunak, who is set to become the first person of color to lead Britain. The former Treasury chief was chosen by a governing Conservative Party desperate for a safe pair of hands to guide the country through economic and political turbulence.

For many Indians, who are celebrating Diwali, one of the most important Hindu festivals, it was a instance to say: He is one of our own.

“It is a moment of pride for India that the country which ruled us for many years has now a prime minister of Indian heritage,” said Manoj Garg, a New Delhi businessman.

Sunak’s grandparents hailed from Punjab state before the subcontinent was divided into two countries — India and Pakistan — after British rule ended in 1947. They moved to East Africa in the late 1930s before finally settling in the U.K. in the 1960s. Sunak was born in 1980 in Southampton on England’s south coast.

His ancestral link is not his only association with India. He is married to Akshata Murty, whose father is Indian billionaire N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of tech giant Infosys.

In April 2022, it emerged that Murty, who owns a little less than a 1% stake in Infosys, did not pay U.K. taxes on her overseas income. The practice was legal, but it looked bad at a time when Sunak was raising taxes for millions of Britons as chancellor of the Exchequer.

Indian TV channels appeared star-struck by Sunak’s victory. Across the bottom of the screen on New Delhi Television ran the words: “Indian son rises over the empire.” India Today news channel, meanwhile, took a jab at the U.K.’s economic and political turbulence, using the Hindi term for someone of Indian background: “Battered Britain gets ‘desi’ big boss.”

Last year, Indians celebrated Kamala Harris’s Indian heritage when she became U.S. vice president.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Sunak on Twitter and said he is looking forward to “working closely together on global issues.”

“Special Diwali wishes to ‘living bridge’ of UK Indians as we transform historic ties into modern partnership,” Modi wrote.

Some said Sunak’s selection was particularly special for the country with its recent celebration of 75 years of independence from British colonial rule.

“Today, as India celebrates Diwali in its 75th year as an independent nation, the U.K. gets an Indian-origin Prime Minister. History comes full circle,” lawmaker Raghav Chadha tweeted.

Others celebrated Sunak as a “proud Hindu,” saying he did not shy away from embracing his faith and Indian culture. They shared videos on Twitter showing Sunak taking his oath of allegiance as a lawmaker in 2020 on the Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita.

Other videos shared on Twitter showed Sunak praying to a cow, considered holy by Hindus, when he was running for Britain’s top job for the first time in August. In a Hindu ritual conducted in London, Sunak touched the cow’s feet while his wife offered carrots to it. Sunak also performed “aarti” in front of the cow — a Hindu ritual involving the waving of oil lamps.

Sunak has been public about his Indian origins — and his love for cricket. He has also talked about his abstinence from beef on religious grounds.

“I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my cultural heritage is Indian,” he told reporters in 2020.


Associated Press video journalist Shonal Ganguly contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press

Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

Trump tried to illegally influence the 2016 election by preventing damaging stories about himself from becoming public, a prosecutor said.

2 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump and his lawyer Todd Blanche appear at Manhattan criminal in Ne...

Associated Press

Police to review security outside courthouse hosting Trump trial after man sets himself on fire

Crews rushed away a person after fire was extinguished outside where jury selection was taking place in the Donald Trump criminal trial.

5 days ago

Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn-in before the House Committee on Hom...

the MyNorthwest Staff with wire reports

Senate dismisses two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security secretary, ends trial

The Senate dismissed impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as Republicans pushed to remove him.

6 days ago

idaho gender-affirming care...

Associated Press

Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

The Supreme Court is allowing Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth while lawsuits over the law proceed.

8 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump speaks to the press in Manhattan state court in New York City ...

Associated Press

Trump’s hush money trial gets underway; 1st day ends without any jurors selected

The historic hush money trial of Donald Trump got underway Monday with the arduous process of selecting a jury to hear the case.

8 days ago

Photo: Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in cent...

Tia Goldenberg and Josef Federman, The Associated Press

Israel is quiet on next steps against Iran — and on which partners helped shoot down missiles

On Sunday, Israel's leaders credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct attack from Iran.

9 days ago

Indians embrace next UK prime minister, Sunak, as their own