2020 has been a difficult year for a billions of people for a multitude of reasons.
It has been particularly challenging for governments and their representatives around the world. Being appointed the ambassador of your nation to one of its most important strategic partners, as the Coronavirus pandemic reached its zenith, is an unenviable task to say the very least.
But Ambassador Gaitri Issar Kumar has taken to her new role as India’s High Commissioner to the UK with the composure and grace possessed not only by a seasoned diplomat but a woman and mother.
A member of the 1986 batch of the prestigious Indian Foreign Service, Mrs Kumar was previously the Indian ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union.
She is only the third woman to take up the post in London – following in the footsteps of the iconic Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and, most recently, Ruchi Ghanashyam.
After taking her position in June, Mrs Kumar has had to contend with severely challenging circumstances, not least overseeing the repatriation of Indians stranded in the UK due to Covid-19.
Despite the challenges, she has actively engaged with the community and hit the ground running on issues ranging from UK-India trade in the post-Brexit era to India’s border security.
Today, on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day, Mrs Kumar issued a virtual message to the Diaspora community in the UK via Social Media.
This is what she had to say:
Members of the Indian diaspora in all parts of the United Kingdom,
I offer you my warm greetings.
As our people in India and
all our brothers and sisters across the globe
celebrate our 74th Independence Day,
there is equal enthusiasm – if not more – among us all here in the UK.
In Indian communities across the world, one hears a common refrain:
We may leave the shores of India , but India never leaves our hearts.
That is so true.
Wherever we may be
We look forward every year to the momentous flag hoisting
and the message to the nation
of our Hon’ble Prime Minister,
inspiring us to forge ahead in every sphere,
striving for Atma-nirbharta in every way.
On this day, especially , we are reminded of the vision of our founding fathers
and the sacrifices that they made
for the bright future of the coming generations.
The traditional message of H’ble President of India, Shri Ramnath Kovind
on the eve of our 74th Independence Day
has been posted on our High Commission’s website.
It is an honour for me to deliver it
to the Indian Community in the UK.
H’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s address
to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort this morning
has been directly telecast
and is carried on our Mission’s social media handles.
Today, India is proud to be the world’s largest functioning democracy
with significant achievements in realizing the economic, social, educational aspirations of her people and attaining astounding technological progress
including our indigenous
civil nuclear energy and space programmes.
these make us proud, and spur us on to do more
Today, our people are direct stakeholders in innovative initiatives
for participatory governance
that are inspiring developing countries around the world.
The launch of the world’s biggest health assurance scheme
covering 500 million people – free,
the world’s biggest financial inclusion scheme
involving the opening of 370 million bank accounts for the poor,
the world’s biggest digital identification programme
and the world’s largest toilet construction campaign
of over 110 million toilets
are some examples.
With these done, India has set for herself
another set of new goals – to go further in promoting water conservation,
enhancing India’s road infrastructure,
and building millions of residential infrastructure for the poor –
these are some priorities.
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari,
and from Somnath in the west to the farthest point in Arunachal Pradesh,
India is an example of unity in diversity,
a free and open society,
facing its numerous challenges soberly
and addressing them effectively in a transparent manner.
At the global level, we are playing a leading role,
collaborating with the international community
in addressing challenges such as climate change,
terrorism, food security, sustainable development,
transition to renewable energy, energy security,
to name a few
and working to safeguard multilateralism
and a rules based international order,
rules based international trade with WTO at its core.
Now, more than ever,
it is necessary to reform international organisations
to make them more effective
and India is one of the foremost proponents of this goal.
With the UK, India has a unique relationship
based on a shared history
and a common vision for our future co-operation.
Our Hble Prime Ministers have spoken about the new post-covid priorities
that we will work on together
and we look forward to welcoming Rt H’ble Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,
His Excellency, Mr Boris Johnson to India soon .
India’s External Affairs Minister , Dr S Jaishankar
and H.E. Foreign Secretary of the UK, Mr Dominic Raab,
are leading the dialogue and joint efforts in a variety of sectors.
From healthcare to IT services, defence and education
to the space sector, our agenda indicates that the sky is not the limit.
In a poll conducted during a recent panel discussion,
the majority of the participants
voted for India-UK focus on partnership in the manufacturing sector.
I was glad to hear that
as this is where our strength lies
There are more than 850 Indian companies in the UK
with a total revenue of around 45 billion.
They have employed around a 1 05 ooo people.
There are over 65000 companies owned by Indian diaspora
with a combined revenue of more than 36 billion pounds
creating over 174000 jobs.
However there are many other facets
that numbers cannot illustrate,
and therefore there are many powerful factors
which are not always seen or quantified.
This is exemplified in the form of the Indian origin doctors and nurses
who valiantly fought Covid at the frontlines,
many unfortunately risked their lives and lost while seeing to it that others live.
Indeed this power is felt when Indians and eminent PIOs offer solutions and leadership –
whether in the private sector or in Government.
And this radiant power shone through when you
our countrymen and women
threw open your doors and hearts
to help students and others during the lockdown.
This is the spirit of our diaspora,
not only a Living Bridge, but also a Loving one.
High Commission of India complemented the selfless efforts of our diaspora
and worked day and night
to help more than 28000 stranded Indians
reach their homes in India and bring back over 14000 British citizens.
We continue our efforts to help the remaining numbers.
At this time, when so many societies are struggling
to counter misinformation,
which is a new kind of weapon – with mass application,
I would only urge you to avoid receiving, acting on or promoting
doubtful content in any way.
Dear Members of the Indian community in the UK,
our High Commission has received hundreds of messages of badhai
and greetings from individuals and associations
in every part of the UK.
We cherish your patriotism and warm sentiments
and send out to you our best wishes.
This year, we shall have to be careful ,
follow local regulations and avoid unnecessary social contacts or large gatherings.
Our first priority is to be responsible citizens and protect ourselves and our families from any untoward situation.
I, therefore, request you all to do everything you can to keep good health and a high morale.
In fact , I strongly encourage you to adopt the fitness strategy launched by Rt.Hble Prime Minister of the UK on a Hero cycle made in India !
I look forward to welcoming you back to the High Commission of India,
your home away from home, as soon as possible .
Meanwhile, the High Commission of India and its officers and personnel
remain at the service of our community
supporting your endeavours,
wishing you continued success and prosperity.
We wish you a very happy independence day !