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Updated: March 5, 2012 03:19 IST

India, Egypt pledge to build afresh

Atul Aneja
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External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. File photo
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. File photo

India's attempt to relay the foundations of its ties with Egypt has received an enthusiastic response, with the leadership of that country airing its ambition of establishing a soaring relationship with a strong strategic content.

At a press conference on Sunday, visiting External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna, disclosed that during his meeting with Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the latter was emphatic that India-Egypt relations should recover some of the lost flavour of the heady Nasser-Nehru era, in tune with the demands of modern times.

But Mr. Krishna's visit – the first high-level exchange after the exit of the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak – was hardly an exercise in nostalgia. On the contrary, looking towards the future, both sides, steering clear of sticky ideological issues, gave a technocratic slant to the relationship during its rebuilding stage.

Mr. Krishna said the two countries had identified Information Technology as a thrust area for joint forays. In the coming days and weeks, officials working through diplomatic channels, will come out with details and a road map for concretising cooperation. Both countries signed documents on Sunday to work together in agriculture, culture and environmental protection.

On the political track, India has decided to fully engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has emerged as a dominant force after the country's recent parliamentary elections. In his last meeting of the day, Mr. Krishna met Mohammed Morsy, chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), electoral face of the Brotherhood.

Leading figures of the Brotherhood told officials of Mr. Krishna's delegation that they would want to impart “greater balance” in choosing their friends and allies, and not have a foreign policy that had the relationship with the U.S. as its anchor.

Apart from India, Egypt would be keen to build a strong relationship with China as well as with its African neighbours. Egypt's relationship with the Gulf countries would remain strong especially because of the presence of nearly 2.5 million Egyptian workers there.

But that would not veto a constructive, if not conscious engagement, with Iran.

According to an Egyptian diplomat, the bureaucracy has continued to function despite a year of political turmoil caused by the anti-Mubarak uprising. But India might have to await a change of personnel, as officials from the Mubarak era fade out and the bureaucracy acquires a new complexion, reflective of the recent political changes, before interaction can commence in full swing.

During his call on Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal El Ganzoury, the latter called for expansion of trade with India, which stood at a modest $3 billion. Mr. Krishna invited Kamel Amr, his Egyptian counterpart, to India to keep up the tempo of the relationship, which might acquire greater momentum after Egypt concludes its presidential elections in May.

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“Better late than never”

We heartily welcome Sri S.M. Krishna directive that "diplomats are to be people oriented”. But will this ever be put into practise?

I and my wife both are Indian passport holders residing in Europe for over 40 years now. We have never been tempted to take foreign citizenship despite having been asked to do so one more than one occasion and having the possibilities to do so, knowing fully well that this would have smoothed our way on diverse occasions. I am a sculptor and my wife is an architect. We have always worked as in our fields or with similar activities.
I am registered as sculptor and visual arts expert at the local Chamber of Commerce.
Our combined professional and cultural interests have allowed us to travel across firstly throughout India then five continents. We have an accurate picture of our Indian bureaucrats in India and abroad.

No need to unfold all the pages of our travels and experiences to explain our support for Sri Krishna’s declaration since I had already written to the ministry about this around 1990 (twenty odd years ago) when I unexpectedly found myself victim of the local Italian residents. Instead of helping me the embassy staff would not believe or accept that we could work and live with our work.For them Kathakali, Kathak , filmi music with Chicken tandoori , Mashala Dossa is Indian culture and commerce.

The staff in the embassies, (ambassadors and consuls included), believe themselves to be superior when dealing with fellow Indians and their attitude is one of arrogant incompetence, condescension and hostility; they are unwilling and or incapable of providing the required assistance and support one would imagine was their duty as representatives of the Indian nation on foreign soil.

Towards the westerners whether their counterparts or public they are like whipped dogs with their tails between their legs. Proof of this is in the public window in every embassy or consulates.
Instead of offering Indian nationals and persons of Indian origin preferential treatment we are made to believe that we are second/third class citizens merely there to wrongly occupy the bureaucrats and their clerks’ precious time in on foreign soil when they could be lazing and enjoying their foreign sojourn.

The selection criteria of the bureaucrat should change. We do not need 1st class clerks, we need Explorer , quick minded people who can discriminate between the local customs and learn to apply the most efficient practises and be people-friendly. Persons who know that they are at the service of the Indian people and not vice-versa as the Indian govt. employees of the Swiss embassy erroneously believe and act.
Ambassador or consuls climbing up the career ladder from 3rd Secretary to head of mission end up usually with 1st division clerk mentality .

Any complaints made by Indian citizens on the ministry/embassy/consulate or its staff is destroyed but the details of the person who has protested is kept on file, the staff is immediately united in making life most unpleasant for those who dare to complain to punish them forever.
I am sure everyone is aware of this and many have been unjustly treated and suffered for this. Is the minister going to take this up and restore dignity and respect as integral requirements for those serving in the Indian missions abroad or is this just a flash in the pan for political effect?

from:  AKS
Posted on: Mar 5, 2012 at 18:45 IST
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