Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Rakesh Ahuja

Western Diplomats of Indian origin being appointed to India is a new trend.

Earlier this month, Harinder Sidhu presented her credentials to President Pranab Mukherjee as Australia’s High Commissioner to India. She thus joins two other western Heads of Mission of Indian origin in New Delhi – Ambassador Richard R. Verma of the United States and High Commissioner Nadir Patel of Canada.

It was not always like this. A western power being represented in India in any capacity by a non-Anglo Saxon/Celtic was unthinkable just 20 odd years ago — until the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs broke the mold by appointing me, India born, as Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to New Delhi. The mosaic of reactions both at home and in India to this path-breaking move gives some idea of the prevailing social climate then.

Reservations about my appointment were discernible enough in the corridors of foreign policy-related establishments in Canberra. But political correctness kept them muted. Though New Delhi was nowhere near as sought after as Washington or London, the post-1991 reformist India was beginning to bud in official consciousness as a posting to make a mark in.

My selection did not exactly endear me to other contenders. There was restrained amusement too at the Department’s naivety in assuming that sending a ‘native’ to his original habitat would somehow improve bilateral diplomatic relations with a ‘difficult’ country.

Overall, my selection was perceived at best as presenting a new visage of Australian diplomacy on the Asian stage and, at worst, as the Foreign Secretary currying favour with the ruling Labor Government, which was unequivocally committed to multiculturalism in public service.

On my part, I was just plain worried. It is one thing to have served in Beijing, Moscow and Hanoi among others, but quite another to be the first ethnic in the halls of western diplomacy in Delhi. After all, in the broader geo-political context, I had to work closely with other western missions there.

And then there were the unknowns of working in the Indian environment. I sought counsel from both local and foreign observers of the local scene. The unanimous advice was to reject the appointment. Reason? Given the petitionary mores of Delhi’s political, bureaucratic and business elite in a still closed economy, I would be inundated with demands for “assistance” with visas, foreign alcohol and other objects of desire, invitations to dinners and events. Why? Because I would be seen as one of them and expected to behave the Indian way — and all that it implied.

Still, reassured of support at the highest levels, off I went.

On the ground at the Australian High Commission, it was par for the course in working with Australian colleagues (apart from an Australian spouse who kept introducing me to Indians, well-meaningly but disconcertingly, as “believe it or not, this is our DHC”). The notable difference from serving in other Australian missions was the reaction of the local (Indian) staff, long used to taking orders from Caucasians. I learnt later of their anxieties at being saddled with an Indian-style babu, but these dissipated within weeks.

The reaction of the diplomatic community was tellingly a mixed bag. It was then de rigueur for an incoming senior diplomat to call on his counterparts in missions of interest to Australia. I covered about thirty. Presenting myself for the appointment at the British High Commission, much confusion ensued: it had all been a “mistake” and the meeting was politely “postponed” (inevitably followed next day by profuse apologies and a sheepish call on me instead).

The appointment with the US Embassy kept getting delayed until presumably they had ‘cleared’ me as a genuine article. New Zealanders and Canadians were warmly welcoming.

The Russians, fully aware of my six (Cold War) years in Moscow handling a portfolio quite unpalatable to the then Soviet Union, were downright suspicious, tinged with a hint of hostility. The Chinese evinced much wariness, for e.g., on working together on issues of mutual interest, the crass undiplomatic response was “we will do so with your colleagues”, casting doubts on my credibility as a genuine Australian representative.

Singapore apart, other Asian diplomats were visibly confounded, but once recovered, marveled at what they perceived to be a stealthy Australian diplomatic ploy. No sense of my professional merit entered their calculations!

Outside the cloistered Chanakyapuri chanceries, and the Ministry of External Affairs whose staffers had known me or about me over the years in previous official reincarnations, it was uniformly a case of being greeted with undisguised disbelief by Indian bureaucrats. Instead of discussing the official matter at hand, invariably one had to first walk through a barrage of what we would deem personal questions — the how and why of a “non-white” being the DHC. It was all inoffensive, but somewhat wearisome.

A few months later though, it was just like working as in any other foreign capital.

More broadly, on the public front, I did become something of an exotic specimen for TV and print media. That did not go unnoticed back home, reassuringly so. Indian business with its usual pragmatism dealt with me as it would with another western diplomat. My calendar became overweight with invitations to speak at trade, academic, NGO, arts and other social events.

Fears about being besieged by entreaties proved groundless. At no time during my posting did I receive any untoward request from the usual suspects — businesspersons, bureaucrats and social contacts. Or from local staff with whom I worked on a day to day basis. The indelible emotional footprint left on my mind after the six year posting was one of having received overwhelming warmth, blended with visible pride, and full working cooperation from Indians of all stations.

While it is not for me to judge the value of my contribution to Australia-India relations, I can confidently assert that my appointment as a senior Australian representative did much to undermine the then Indian elite’s highly negative views of Australia, largely informed by still fresh memories of the White Australia policy.

And it served as a precedent for other western governments; today Indian origin diplomats abound in their missions in New Delhi.

They would do well to give credit to the Australian Foreign Service for initiating a multicultural presence in the western diplomatic corps long before it became the norm in India (or elsewhere). IANS

Rakesh Ahuja is a former member of the Australian foreign service who served as a Australian Deputy High Commissioner in India. He is now Managing Associate, Axess India Consultancy Group. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at


Photo by Pixabay

Upcoming medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages

The new medical colleges being opened in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages.

The state government has issued an order naming four district hospitals that are being converted into medical colleges.

These district hospitals are in Bijnor, Fatehpur, Chandauli, and Siddharth Nagar.

The Bijnor medical college has been named after Mahatma Vidur, a philosopher during the Mahabharata era and uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

The Chandauli medical college has been named after Baba Keenaram, said to be the founder of the Aghori sect.

The Siddharth Nagar district hospital will be called Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College after the BJP politician from the region. Tripathi, popularly known as Madhav Babu, was also the first Uttar Pradesh BJP chief. He was elected MP from Domariyaganj in 1977, besides being two times Jan Sangh MLA and also a member of the UP legislative council.

The Fatehpur hospital has been named Amar Shaheed Jodha Singh Ataiya Thakur Dariyawn Singh Medical College, after the freedom fighter of 1857.

It is said that he was among the first to use Guerrilla warfare against the British, as taught by freedom fighter Tatya Tope.

Meanwhile, according to official sources, the medical college in Deoria will be named after Maharishi Devraha Baba and the medical college of Ghazipur in the name of Maharishi Vishwamitra.

The medical college of Mirzapur will be in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini, the medical college of Pratapgarh in the name of Dr. Sonelal Patel and the medical college of Etah will be named after Veerangana Avantibai Lodhi. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Medical Colleges, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, India, Politics

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Indian cricket team on the ground

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has picked India as the favourite to win the ongoing ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Inzamam feels that the Virat Kohli-led India have a greater chance of winning the trophy as the conditions in the Gulf nations are similar to the subcontinent, which makes India the most dangerous side in the event, according to Inzamam.

"In any tournament, it cannot be said for certain that a particular team will win' It's all about how much chance do they have of winning it. In my opinion, India have a greater chance than any other team of winning this tournament, especially in conditions like these. They have experienced T20 players as well," said Inzamam on his YouTube channel.

He said more than the Indian batters, the bowlers have a lot of experience of playing in the conditions. The Indian Premier League (IPL) was played recently in UAE and most of the Indian bowlers did well in that leg.

Inzy heaped praises on the Men in Blue for the confident manner in which they chased the target against Australia on a challenging track without needing Kohli's batting prowess.

"India played their warm-up fixture against Australia rather comfortably. On subcontinent pitches like these, India are the most dangerous T20 side in the world. Even today, if we see the 155 runs they chased down, they did not even need Virat Kohli to do so," he added.

Though he did not pick any favourite, Inzamam termed the India-Pakistan clash in the Super 12 on October 24 as the 'final before the final' and said the team winning it will go into the remaining matches high on morale,

"The match between India and Pakistan in the Super 12s is the final before the final. No match will be hyped as much as this one. Even in the 2017 Champions Trophy, India and Pakistan started and finished the tournament by facing each other, and both the matches felt like finals. The team winning that match will have their morale boosted and will also have 50 percent of pressure released from them," Inzamam added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Pakistan, Sports, ICC T20 World Cup, UAE.

Photo by Diana Akhmetianova on Unsplash

Skin problems like itchiness, dryness and flakiness can occur anytime if you're not moisturising your body enough.

Skin problems like itchiness, dryness and flakiness can occur anytime if you're not moisturising your body enough. It is commonly observed that while many people take their skincare routine seriously, a majority of them neglect to moisturise the body. It is important to keep in mind that timing matters a lot when it comes to applying moisturisers. Therefore, knowing the appropriate time to apply body lotion is essential.

Take a look at the ideal times to moisturise your body shared by Kimi Jain, Head of Retail, KIMRICA.

Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. The skin is constantly exposed to harsh chemicals and pollutants when you're outside which is why using a protective and soothing moisturiser while going out is necessary. Kimirica's Five Elements Body Lotion comes with natural Aloe Vera extracts that act as a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins that helps protect your skin and provide a deep nourishing effect.

man in white crew neck t-shirt Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. | Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Keep reading... Show less