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A pat for Indian envoys

The Lankan president urges his country's envoys to take Indian diplomats as their role model and promote the island's economic interests abroad, writes PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Oct 06, 2006 01:59 IST

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has urged his country's envoys to take Indian and Western diplomats as their role model and promote Sri Lanka's business and economic interests abroad.

"I have been sometimes amazed at their enthusiasm in furthering their opportunities in Sri Lanka.

I have my doubts whether our Sri Lankan envoys have acted in a similar way," the state-owned Daily News quoted Rajapaksa as saying in his address at a conference of Sri Lankan envoys here on Wednesday.

Rajapaksa said that Indian and Western diplomats "walked the extra mile", even meeting the highest in the land, like himself and his cabinet ministers, "to promote their (country's) marketable goods and services and enhance their business prospects in Sri Lanka."

Some Sri Lankan companies like Damro (furniture makers) and Dilmah (a tea company) had done well abroad against fierce competition, but that was due to "their own effort," the President said.  

"I am of the view that many others would have done so if they had your assistance," he added.

He drew attention to the fact that despite its immense resources, Sri Lanka had not attracted the amount of foreign investment and got as many tourists it should have.

An avowedly tourist country, it attracts, on an average, only 600,000 tourists per year.

Rajapaksa asked the envoys to "revolutionise" the structure and thinking in their missions when they got back, and expect to be assessed on that basis.

"I know it is an arduous task. However, it should be undertaken by you. We may have to assess your performance based on this criteria in the future," he said.

Bandaranaike's barbs against Indian envoy fall flat

Political observers here found President Rajapaksa's praise for Indian diplomats significant and interesting in the context of the recent attack by a senior cabinet minister, Anura Bandaranaike, against the way the Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao was functioning.

Bandaranaike never stated the exact reason for his outburst against the envoy on the floor of the house in parliament.

But it was generally believed that the barbs stemmed from Rao's "efforts" to safeguard Apollo Hospital, a major Sri Lankan government-backed Indian investment, against a hostile take over bid by a very influential local corporate raider.

The President and his Foreign Minister distanced themselves from Bandaranaike's line, saying that it was his personal view and praised Rao's efforts to strengthen India-Sri Lanka relations.