Rishi Sunak's election to the post of UK PM has received much cheer from Indian media and political leaders. But what does Sunak's appointment as PM really mean for India?

The election of Rishi Sunak as the next Prime Minister of Britain has received massive support from Indians on social media. The UK-born Indian-origin Tory MP has not only become the youngest person to become British PM but also the first non-white, Indian-origin, Hindu man to get elected to the post.

Soon after it became apparent that the Sunak would become the next PM, congratulatory messages started pouring from across states and parties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Sunak on Twitter and said he is looking forward to “working closely together on global issues.” Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and corporate honchos congratulated Sunak. So did Punjab CM Bhagwant Singh Mann. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti have also expressed their good wishes for the former British finance minister.

Indian TV channels also appeared star-struck by Sunak’s victory. Cheerful proclamations like “Indian son rises over the empire", “Battered Britain gets ‘desi’ big boss.” and others of the ilk were flashed across tv news channels.

In his turn, Sunak, a practicing Hindu who usually makes no bones about his Indian roots and heritage, has declared that wants to change the UK-India relationship.

The statement had come earlier in August when Sunak had been competing with then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss for the post of PM, a contest that truss ultimately won. Addressing a group of British Indian Conservative Party members who were voting in the election, Sunak had said in August that he wanted to make India-UK relations more of a "two-way exchange that opens up easy access to UK students and companies in India".

The Conservative leaders in support of the Tory MP for Richmond in Yorkshire have also claimed that Britain was not "racist" and that Sunak's Indian heritage and ethnic minority background had no part to play in the contest to succeed Boris Johnson as the Conservative Party leader and British Prime Minister.

“This country is not racist. For Rishi to reach this stage, it proves that merit is valued,” said Lord Dolar Popat, a veteran Tory peer.

Look Forward To Working Closely Together On Global Issues, Implementing Roadmap 2030: PM Narendra Modi On Rishi Sunak's Elevation

Organizations like the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) diaspora group in north London has also shown support for Sunak. In August, Sunak had greeted a gathering of the same with a mix of traditional greetings such as “namaste, salaam, khem cho and kidda” and even broke into Hindi: “aap sab mere parivar ho (you all are my family)".

Responding to a question about bilateral ties from CFIN co-chair Reena Ranger, Sunak had stated that “We know the UK-India relationship is important. We represent the living bridge between our two countries".

“We are all very aware of the opportunity for the UK to sell things and do things in India, but actually we need to look at that relationship differently because there is an enormous amount that we here in the UK can learn from India.

“I want to make sure that it’s easy for our students to also travel to India and learn, that it’s also easy for our companies and Indian companies to work together because it’s not just a one-way relationship, it’s a two-way relationship, and that’s the type of change I want to bring to that relationship,” he said.

'China Biggest Threat'

Sunak's popularity among Indians might also have to do with the fact that the Tory leader has openly called China, India's South Asian neighbour with whom it shares contentious geopolitical relations, the biggest enemy of the UK.

Earlier in August, Sunak had doubled down on his stand about the need to be “very robust” in defending the UK against Beijing’s aggressiveness.

“China and the Chinese Communist Party represent the biggest threat to our economic and thereby national security that this country has faced in a long time and we need to be alive to that,” he said.

“Be in no doubt, as your Prime Minister I will do whatever it takes to keep you, your families and our country safe because that’s the first duty of a Conservative Prime Minister,” he said.

Indians In UK

Meanwhile, Sunak has long been enjoying the support of the Indian diaspora who treat him almost like a rock star.

In August during his campaign trail against Truss, Sunak had been met with dhol beats and loud cheers at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in Harrow where he spent hours interacting with hundreds of Tory members who queued up to shake hands with him.

He was showered with blessings by the elderly in the crowd, patted on the back by others and eight-year-old Tanish Sahu got a special picture as Sunak carried him in his arms.

Amita Mishra, Trustee of Shree Jagannatha Society UK, handed over a set of gold-plated deities all the way from India.

“We are working on creating a Jagannath Temple in London and this gift is a special blessing all the way from India,” said Mishra, who was accompanied by a pandit who performed a victory shloka from the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ as the deities were handed over to Sunak on stage.

A British Sikh Tory member in the crowd waited hours to get a special bottle of Jack Daniels whisky signed by Sunak – despite both him and the former Chancellor being teetotallers.

Sunak’s handling of the Bounce Back Loan scheme introduced in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns had led to some reservations against the leader. However, all qualms seem to now have vanished after Truss's resignation and Sunak's former boss Boris Johnson dropping out of the race for PM soon after.