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India wants good relations with all countries: Ambassador Jaiswal

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

By Parveen Chopra

 

Serving as Consul General of India in New York since 19 July 2020, Randhir Jaiswal is a career diplomat. He joined the Indian Foreign  Service in 1998. He has served in Portugal, Cuba, South Africa and at the Permanent Mission of India in New York. In between, he served in New Delhi at the Ministry of External Affairs, first as Deputy Secretary  looking after India’s relations with the US, and then as Joint Secretary  managing India’s relations with West European countries. In  2017, he was deputed to serve the President of India as Joint Secretary managing his international relations portfolio.

Amb. Jaiswal is passionate about sports, environment, culture, monuments, old cities, and cuisines. He is deeply interested in strategic, sustainable development and public policy issues. He has been part of India’s delegation at various Climate Change Conferences and was the lead negotiator for the G-77 countries at the RIO+20 Conference held in Brazil in 2012.

He holds a master’s in history from Delhi University. He speaks Hindi, English, Portuguese, and Spanish. He is married to Dr. Abha Jaiswal, a public health expert. They have two daughters.

Consul General Randhir Jaiswal gave an exclusive interview to The South Asian Times on the eve of India’s 74th Independence Day, in which he said that even amid Covid, digital technologies have enabled us to celebrate India’s Independence Day with fervor and joy. Excerpts:

The South Asian Times: You arrived in New York at a challenging time… 

Consul General Randhir Jaiswal: During Covid-19 times there was a challenge, but things are starting to improve in New York and that has allowed us to open up our services. We are at this point giving all our services. Of course, we are trying to minimize the contacts so that we can ensure the safety of our staff and the safety of people who seek services from us. We are also facilitating travel of Indians who want to go back as well as OCI holders. Then, there are emergency cases, we also attend to that. In that respect, our consulate is functional.

Walk-ins are not allowed, but in case of an emergency, we aid them how best to deal with this. If people are far, we try to engage them through postal service, etc.

So, people should visit the consulate  after taking an appointment.

CG Jaiswal: In the interest of all, we tell people to take all precautions and to come here only if it is very necessary, otherwise we are rolling out our services, giving our services to people.

And you are doing many Zoom meetings.

CG Jaiswal: Yes, we are, we are connecting with the community. We are doing several virtual interactions with people, to strengthen our friendship, to strengthen our economic engagement with the United States. Also doing cultural connect, public affairs connect through the digital medium.

 

What are your plans for the 15 August programs?

CG Jaiswal: We are having an in-house flag hoisting this time, but through the digital medium (Facebook, etc) we will be able to connect to everyone this time.

There are several events that day. FIA is doing a flag hoisting at Times Square. We will be participating through video message in several celebrations in New Jersey and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and other states in the jurisdiction of this consulate. I appreciate people’s understanding that we cannot join all of them because of physical restrictions, but digital technologies have enabled us nonetheless to celebrate India’s Independence Day with fervor and joy.

Each Consul General who takes office in New York has a different style and priorities, what are your priorities, short-term and long-term?

CG Jaiswal: India-US relations is a vast world, so to really focus on some areas becomes difficult, but nonetheless for the Consulate I would say we want to strengthen the connect we have with the community here, we want to see that the public services that we roll out are efficient, smooth and people-friendly and people-centric. Our services should have a human face and we should have a human face in whatever we do. We also want to utilize the community here and the other stakeholders to strengthen the India-US economic relations which is an important part of our function. We have many friends in the US and the Indian community has played an important role in strengthening the people-to-people connect between the two countries. We are a living bridge between the two countries, we would like all our friends, well-wishers in the Indian-American community to help us strengthen the friendship and political relationship with America further.

The issue roiling the community lately is the H-1B and other immigration restrictions, what can be done about that?

CG Jaiswal: India-US partnership is a vast world and we have every aspect of human endeavor in which the two countries engage together. Our economic relationship is strong, and there are certain issues on which we are talking to each other and we hope that we further strengthen our economic connect, our educational connect, and our technological connect. The movement of skilled people, etc., is an important component which adds value on both sides.

India is facing pressure on two fronts, China and Pakistan…

We are working to have good relations with all countries, the entire global community. We are talking to China to resolve some of the outstanding issues. We want to have peace and tranquility at our borders, and we want to further our engagement with them on all fronts.

 

How well is India’s response to Covid-19?

CG Jaiswal: It has been robust. The government of India’s strategy is to do contact tracing, testing, and treatment which has yielded good results. Our fatality rate is low, at 2.13%. Given the size of the country, and our population, we have done exceedingly well – we have not just taken care of the health impact of Covid-19, but also the economic impact. We have huge social security programs in place to provide foodgrains, to provide direct benefits, cash transfers to people who have been impacted, we also have a huge economic stimulus amounting to 10% of our GDP to revitalize our economy. We are hopeful that despite all the challenges, we will be able to do well,  create more opportunities for our people and we will be successful both fronts, health and economic.

You last worked at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Tell us more about President Ram Nath Kovind.

CG Jaiswal: Rashtrapati-ji is a very respected man – he has years of political experience including as governor of Bihar before becoming President of India. On the international front, he has a very engaging personality, very humble personality, he has a common man’s approach. He has visited 28 countries in the last two and half years I was there, countries from Africa, Latin America, Europe, to Asia.

What was your role there?

CG Jaiswal: As Joint Secretary attached to the President’s secretariat, I was tasked with managing Rashtrapati-ji’s international engagements. Notably, of the 28 countries that we visited, many were those where no Indian President or Prime Minister had ever visited since independence. Madagascar for example. In that sense what President Kovind has done with India’s international engagement is of immense value. He also hosted 37 visiting heads of state.

You have had many postings in your illustrious career, which one you enjoyed the most?

CG Jaiswal: Each assignment had its own challenges and opportunities, its own professional satisfaction. New York, of course, is a special place. It is a global city, you talk about global ideas, you talk about global issues in the city, that is very energizing and very vibrant. My earlier stint in New York was also professionally very satisfying and I look forward to a very professionally satisfying stint here  this time around. I look forward to the support of my friends and well-wishers and the Indian community and our American friends.

 

What is your message for our community and for The South Asian Times readers?

CG Jaiswal: The community is very well connected with the Consulate, but I would like to borrow from Rabindranath Tagore,  I will still work further to make the distant nearer.

My best wishes to The South Asian Times, you have done well in connecting the Consulate with the largest community. You have also played a very meaningful role in strengthening India-US friendships.

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