Indians Rising in Foreign Governments

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‘People of Indian Origin’ or PIOs are making it big in politics and/or government positions in several countries outside India.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.02.51 amAntónio Costa is the Prime Minister of PORTUGAL since Nov 2015. He was Minister of Parliamentary Affairs from 1995 to 1999, Minister of Justice from 1999 to 2002, Minister of Internal Administration from 2005 to 2007, and Mayor of Lisbon from 2007 to 2015.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.03.25 amLeo Varadkar is the Tánaiste (equivalent to Deputy PM) and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment of IRELAND since June 2020. He served as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Minister for Defence from June 2017 to June 2020. He held several ministerial positions from March 2011 to June 2017.

Costa and Varadkar have attained the highest positions by any PIOs in western nations.


Though there are no PIOs currently in President Donald Trump‘s Republican party government, the day is perhaps not far.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 1.06.41 amKamala Harris is a Senator (equivalent to a Rajya Sabha MP in India) from California (USA’s largest state) since 2017. She is most likely to be picked as the Vice President candidate by Trump‘s challenger, Joe Biden of the Democratic party, (a former VP and a former Senator) in the November 2020 presidential elections. If Biden wins, which is seeming to be most likely with every passing week, Kamala Harris will attain what is technically the second-highest position in the U.S. government, though realistically, it is just a rubber stamp position with no real executive powers.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.37.52 amNimrata ‘Nikki’ Haley was the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN. This was a cabinet-level post while she was in it, but was downgraded by Trump after she resigned in December 2018. She is a former Governor of South Carolina state, a post equivalent to a CM of an Indian state.

Though not cabinet members, there are quite a few PIOs in senior U.S. government posts. Ajit Pai is Chairman of FCC (Federal Communications Commission), an agency that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. Neil Chatterjee is Chairman of the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). Krishna Urs is the U.S. Ambassador to Peru. Seema Verma is the administrator of the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), part of the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS), equivalent to India’s health ministry. Vishal Amin is Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. He helps the government combat online piracy. Manisha Singh is Asst Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, part of the U.S. Department of State (equivalent to India’s ministry of external affairs). In April 2020, Trump nominated her to be the next U.S. Representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador. Bimal Patel is Assistant Secretary of the Department of Treasury (equivalent to India’s finance ministry) for Financial Institutions. Dr. Rita Baranwal is Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy.

Some PIOs served earlier in the Trump administration. Attorney and jurist Neomi Rao was administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the White House from July 2017 to March 2019. When it comes to policy, the OIRA administrator can be one of the most influential positions in the U.S. government. She is now a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which includes the national capital, Washington, D.C. Raj Shah served as the White House Deputy Press Secretary and Deputy Assistant to the President from 2017 to 2019.

Apart from government positions, Indian Americans are rising in the U.S. Congress (parliament), both in the Senate, as well as the ‘House’ of Representatives (equivalent to India’s Lok Sabha). Kamala Harris is the only Senator, but there are four members of the House, also known as Congressmen or Congresswomen, or as Representatives.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.42.51 amDr. Ami Bera is a 4-term Representative since Jan 2013. Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi are 2-term Representatives since Jan 2017. Ro (I know him personally) is Representative from USA’s richest congressional district, Silicon Valley.


Two PIOs are amongst the three senior most ministers in Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s Conservative Party government.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.46.44 amRishi Sunak is the Chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to finance minister in India), while Priti Patel is the Home Secretary (home minister). In addition, Alok Sharma is the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (there is no equivalent ministry in India), one of the other 18 cabinet ministers.

So PIOs comprise 13.64% of the cabinet of the UK (including the PM), whereas, as per the 2011 census, there were 1,412,958 people from the Indian ethnic group in England and Wales, making up 2.5% of the total population.

Shailesh Vara has been an MP of the UK since 2005. He was Minister of State for Northern Ireland for 10 months in 2018. Virendra Sharma is an MP since 2007. Earlier, Keith Vaz served as an MP from 1987 to 2019, UK’s longest-served Asian MP. He also served as Minister for Europe from October 1999 to June 2001, and was appointed a member of the Privy Council in June 2006. At least 12 other PIOs have been MPs.


PIOs comprise 4 of the 37 (10.8%, versus a population of 3.92%) cabinet members of the Liberal Party government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Three of them are Sikh while one is a Hindu.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.53.03 amHarjit Singh Sajjan is Minister of National Defence. He is a former military as well as police officer. Navdeep Singh Bains is Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Bardish Chagger is Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and Anita Anand is Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Apart from National Defence, the other Canadian ministries don’t have exact Indian counterparts. Anita Anand is the first Indian Canadian of a Hindu background to become a federal (central) minister in Canada and is the first female Hindu Member of Parliament.

Kamalpreet Khera is an MP since Oct 2015 and a Parliamentary Secretary (post is like an assistant minister) in two ministries. Randeep Singh Sarai is an MP since Oct 2015. At least 11 other MPs have been ministers and/or MPs in Canada.


In AUSTRALIA, Dave Sharma is an MP since May 2019. From 2010 to 2012, he was head of the International Division of the Dept. of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. From June 2013 to June 2017 he was Ambassador to Israel. At age 37, he was the youngest person to be appointed as an Australian ambassador and the second Australian ambassador of Indian origin. Lisa Singh was a member of the Australian Senate from 2011 to 2019. She was the first person of South Asian descent to be elected to the Australian Parliament.

In SWITZERLAND, Nik Gugger is an elected MP since 2017.

In SINGAPORE, many PIOs have held important posts. These include 2 Presidents and a Deputy Prime Minister. Currently, Tharman Shanmugaratnam is Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies; Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan is Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative; and K Shanmugam is Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law. Thus, 3 of the 7 most senior cabinet positions are held by PIOs. Further, S Iswaran is Minister for Communications and Information; and Indranee Rajah is Minister in the PMO, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Education.

Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 4.56.06 am

Several PIOs hold or have held important government or legislative positions in Fiji, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Many PIOs have also been Members of the European Parliament.


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