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US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image Credit: Agencies

US President Joe Biden called the impending UK premiership of Rishi Sunak a "groundbreaking milestone".

Biden, as most other world leaders, is still getting used to the Indian-descent Sunak's name. He called him "Rashi", which was a full vowel off Sunak's actual first name Rishi. But that slip mattered little to his audience - Indian Americans at a White House celebration of Diwali hosted by the President and First Lady Jill Biden with Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American elected to that office.

"We've got news Rashi... Rashi Sunak is now the Prime Minister," Biden said to a cheering audience of Indian Americans, adding, "As my brother would say 'Go figure'."

President Biden has not officially said anything yet on Sunak's emergence as the presumptive Prime Minister - although he was aware of the next steps as he said, "I think tomorrow when he goes to see the King" - so his remarks at the Diwali event were politically astute.

Modi congratulates Sunak

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Rishi Sunak on Monday and said he is looking forward to working closely together on global issues.

"Warmest congratulations @RishiSunak! As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030. Special Diwali wishes to the 'living bridge' of UK Indians, as we transform our historic ties into a modern partnership," PM Modi tweeted.

Former prime minister Theresa May tweeted praising Sunak - and implicitly criticized his predecessor - saying that, as British prime minister, he "will provide the calm, competent, pragmatic leadership our country needs at this deeply challenging time." While May had maintained that "Brexit means Brexit," and there was no going back on the decision of voters in the 2016 referendum, she seems okay with her party swinging behind the person who lost its leadership race just last month.

Leo Varadkar, scheduled to return as leader of Ireland in December, sent a message of congratulations to Rishi Sunak on Monday morning.

Varadkar, who previously served as Irish Taoiseach between 2017 and 2020, is due to return to the position under a power-sharing agreement in Ireland's current three-party coalition government.

His comments were closely watched not only because of the lengthy history between Ireland and Britain and the fractious relationship since Britain voted to leave the European Union - but also because of Varadkar and Sunak's shared Indian heritage.