Thursday October 19, 2017
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New Indian High Commissioner: Trinidad &Tobago government

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India can learn a lot from how Trinidad & Tobago is a fusion of ethnicities and religions work so beautifully. So said India’s newly-appointed high commissioner to Port-of-Spain, HIS EXCELLENCY GAURI SHANKAR GUPTA, a career diplomat who has served in several other countries. The diplomat, an author in his own right, also said T&T’s crime situation was not unique, even though India had perhaps the lowest per capita crime rate in the world.

Q: Your Excellency, most diplomats, especially heads of missions, are briefed before embarking on their posting. What were you told about T&T?

A: (Crossed legs, seated on his couch at his Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain, office on Thursday afternoon) What they told me was that it is a wonderful place, it is a country that is most important in the Caribbean region, a country that was described as a fusion of ethnicities, and this is what I found when I came here.

If we should get to the hard news first, were you told about our crime situation?

No. Not at all. It was not told to me there, but I discovered a little bit after I came here that there were cases of murders, robberies, but these things do happen in all countries (frowning) around the world. I was told that the Government is trying very hard to control the crimes and the rate was comparatively down, I was told yesterday. I think it is very important for the country’s prosperity for the crime rate not to be very high.

Is it your view, sir, that India has anything to offer us by way of curbing our crime rate?

You see, if you look at India, we would say we have one of the lowest crime rates in the world per capita. We are a country of 1.2 billion people, we have crimes, I don’t deny that, but very few when it comes to where people are actually killed or murdered. There are some pickpockets and stabbings which are happening in each big city of the world but in terms of per capita, they are much lower.

This really goes to the Indian ethos which says we have a theory of karma that you will reap the harvest of what you do, so people don’t want to do too many bad things. If they do, they will have to reap the harvest the next time around.

Do you believe, Your Excellency, that we are reaping our karma now in terms of the crime situation?

I am sure some people here believe in karma, but the ethos of this country has evolved from the fusion of various cultures and ethnic groups, so it is not one single thread which has come in the case of India, which comes from the Vedic civilisation. One thread. But here it has come from Africa, India, America, Latin America, from Europe, so some people here may believe in it, some may not.

I don’t know how much you have gleaned about our crime challenge in the short time you have been here, but is there anything we are not doing which could put a dent in our situation?

(Slightly rubbing his chin) I think education and social engagement are the two important things to curb the crime; education plays a very important role and so does the behaviour of the society. How does the society engage the criminal elements to convert them to good people, and this is the task of both the Government and the NGOs.

There is the school of thought which says poverty is the main factor in the activities of the criminally minded. Do you buy into that?

I don’t think there is a direct, proportionate relationship between the two. There could be some relationship, but it is not direct and proportionate.

If we should get to your assignment in Port-of-Spain, what can we expect by way of trade between our both countries?

Ok. (Adjusting his glasses) Trade between T&T and India is comparatively small. It is in the range of a hundred million dollars, which is not very substantial, but I think the potential is much larger.

How can we tap into that potential?

That’s what I wanted to mention…One important area is energy, where you have the resources natural gas and petroleum, we need those products in our country. I think it is one area where we can do some collaboration. Some Indian companies came here in the past and wanted to negotiate some long-term contracts, but it did not work out. But we will continue that effort, and I hope that we will reach some agreement on that.

Why this specific matter did not work out?

You know these are commercial considerations on both sides, so I don’t want to go into the precise details of those negotiations. I am sure things will be better in the future. Then we have IT cooperation and, in fact, we are discussing certain proposals which are in the pipe…

Such as?

I don’t want to give you the precise details, but things will work out very soon. It can bring in Indian investment, Indian knowledge to benefit Trinidad and Tobago in this field. There are also some proposals for collaboration in the film and music sectors. You have highly developed music traditions in this country including the tradition of films as well. Some Indian companies are considering serious proposals, and if things work out well that can become a reality. These are some of the areas we can work tougher.

What about the financial sector?

Of course, things can work out there as well. You are well placed to be the financial hub in the Caribbean and even linking the North and South Americas. Then a direct shipment of goods; For example, we are very strong in clothing, so I am looking at these possibilities to boost our trading relationship.

Your Excellency, as you spoke about clothing, your immediate predecessor said that your countrymen were bringing inferior stuff here from India.

I don’t want to say anything on that because India exports quality clothing all over the world. The largest and best-branded stores buy Indian goods. If things work out we will be happy to collaborate with stores in T&T.

Culture?

In terms of culture, things are working quite well to begin with. We have the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Cultural Cooperation in Chaguanas, we also have cultural troops coming here from India. Next year we intend to do a cultural festival of India in Port-of-Spain, and we are in touch with the Culture Ministry on that matter.

Have you heard of the chutney genre?

(Eyes lit up with a big smile) Yes. I would say it is a fusion of music between our two countries. It has become very popular in India, it is a great Trinidadian contribution to our music world.

Are you aware that there are certain Indo Trinis who object to some aspects of the chutney such as gyrating or, as we Trini call it, wining?

(Laughs) I don’t think we have that variety yet, but we have the fusion of the two music which is being used in Bollywood films. Chutney is also an Indian word, you know, which basically means a mix of many spices.

Mr Raphael, if I can mention this, I think one area which India can learn tremendously from you is how the fusion of ethnicities and religions each work in your country so beautifully. This is one area where not only Indian but many other countries in the world can learn. You are a small country with a great fusion of all ethnicities, nationalities, so there are many areas we can work to strengthen our ties.

India has been criticised by some more industrialised countries for allegedly producing inferior medications. Is this a fair criticism?

Not at all. Our pharmaceutical industry is one of the best and the cheapest in the world. Some of these accusations are because they are posing a competition to big pharmaceutical companies in the world. We have been able to provide very cheap medication for Aids, for cancer, for other diseases which is not particularly liked by these large companies so, therefore, the accusations are based on the competition they are receiving from India.

Mr Gupta, on the ongoing unsettled situation between India and Pakistan, do you think there would be peace between both countries in your lifetime?

I think so because things are improving slowly. We already have composite dialogue process in place, but there are some periodic incidents of terrorism promoted by our neighbours. I hope our neighbours will understand that terrorism is not the answer to the problems.

Finally, Your Excellency, whenever I happen to see images of India it always strikes me that you cannot tell an Indian from India and an Indo-Trini…that’s before they open their mouth. Has that been your experience?

(Laughs) I agree with you, without opening their mouth sometimes it is difficult to say it is an Indian from India. We see that to some extent in Mexico, as a lot of Mexicans look like Indians and unless they speak you won’t realise if they are Indian or not.

Finally Sir, what legacy do you hope to leave at the end of your posting in Port-of-Spain?

(Chuckling) I don’t want to say I want to leave any legacy, but I will do my best to promote relations between both countries.

This article was first published at www.guardian.co. Image-Krisna.hu

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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Delhi University Students Win the Enactus World Cup 2017

India wins the Enactus World Cup 2017

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India wins Enactus World Cup 2017. Twitter.

New Delhi, Sep 30: After an extremely tough competition between different students across the world in the Enactus World Cup 2017, Team India, represented by Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies (SSCBS), Delhi University emerged as the winner. The winning projects were project UDAAN and Mission RAAHAT.

Supporting the Government of India’s Digital India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan mission, RAAHAT strives to effectively eliminate open defecation and provide safe sanitation in the urban slums; whereas, UDAAN aims at narrowing the digital divide between rural and urban India by setting up computer centres.

The Delhi University college team was led by the college’s faculty advisor, Anuja Mathur and student president of SSCBS Student President Aditya Sharma. The winning projects included 34 more members. The Enactus India and Enactus SSCBS were presented the Ford Better World Award of USD 50,000.

Also Read: Three Indian Women on Fortune’s Most Powerful Business Women

President and Global CEO, Enactus, Rachael A. Jarosh congratulated the Indian for winning the world cup and called the projects- RAAHAT and UDAAN, inspirational success stories of Enactus students, who are sowing businesses. She said that the projects address the real world challenges efficiently and innovatively. Enactus India President Farhan Pettiwala said that the two projects created by Delhi University students contribute to the country’s betterment, as they support the Government’s civil and social agenda.

Enactus is an international nonprofit organisation, with 72,000 students from 1,700 universities in 36 countries, which held its annual global event in London from September 26 to 28. A selected group of 3,500 students, business, government leaders and academicians across the globe were present at the event. Participants for the final competition round are qualified from over 72,000 university students. Each team has about 17 minutes to present their projects of entrepreneurial action.

Enactus works to nurture the entrepreneurial skills of students, and to address fundamental, social and economic challenges by developing innovative and experiential learning opportunities for students.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.