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Roots to Delhi

Foreign diplomats of Indian origin are a growing tribe in the Capital, reports Tushar Srivastava.

delhi Updated: Oct 27, 2008 15:05 IST
Tushar Srivastava

They look like us, their roots are here, but they don’t use our blue passport as a travel document. We’re talking of the growing Shanti Path-based tribe of diplomats of Indian origin.

While most High Commissions and Embassies in Delhi won’t say whether it is a policy decision to post people of Indian origin here, the trend is apparent and the numbers growing.

For instance, five of the 80 diplomats at the British High Commission in Delhi are of Indian origin.

Daniel Chugg, spokesperson for the British High Commission, says, “The good thing is that it shows the diverse face of Britain. Britain is not exactly all White people.”

The United States Embassy, easily one of the largest missions of all in the country, has a whopping 22 diplomats of Indian origin posted here. The Canadian High Commission has three. Even the High Commissions of Malaysia and Singapore, and the Netherlands Embassy employ one Indian-origin diplomat each.

Roots help

Priya Guha, First Secretary (Political), with the British High Commission, told Hindustan Times, “It helps when you have some background knowledge of the country.” Especially in — as she put it — a “fantastically diverse country” like India.While Guha’s father is Bengali and her mother British, both parents of her colleague Zeenat Khanche are from Maharashtra.

“It certainly helps if you have local contacts, you know the language… and people are very interested to find out more about you,” said Khanche, Second Secretary (Programmes).

“A colleague of mine, who was of Indian origin and was recently transferred out, was of tremendous help to all of us. He had much more knowledge of the Indian way of working and was our guide,” one diplomat, who preferred anonymity, said.

Family feeling

Ayesha Rekhi, First Secretary (Political and Economic Affairs) at the Canadian High Commission, said an India posting was the best possible gift for her family.

Toronto-born Rekhi has been posted here for nearly four years. She is happy that her daughter Lyla has got plenty of exposure to India, something she herself missed while growing up.

“This posting has been like a gift…my daughter has got a chance to know the country. My grandmother stays in Delhi, so she gets to meet her great grandmother often. She knows more Hindi than I do,” she said. Rekhi’s husband, a Canadian, but not of Indian origin, was also “very excited” about the India posting, and it was a decision they took jointly.

The Delhi posting is the first ‘foreign’ stint for Rekhi’s colleague Priya Sinha, Second Secretary (Public Affairs), who will be dealing with the press corps in the Capital.

“It’s been a soft landing for me. My parents were very relieved when they came to know that I was going to India and that there would be people to take care of me. I don’t know if they would have been so brave had it been any other country,” she told HT.