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We are not into packaging information for a favorable perception

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November 2004
We are not into packaging information for a favorable perception

Indo-American Diplomacy

"We are not into packaging information for a favorable perception"

Ambassador RONEN SEN pegged the Indian ethos while talking about various subjects such as the image of India, its achievements and place in the world, outsourcing, and where the loyalty of Indian-Americans should rest.

By DEEPA AGARWAL

It wasn't mere coincidence that Ronen Sen, the ambassador of India to the United States, was in Atlanta the month of October. Having presented his credentials to President Bush only on September 15th, it was a remarkably busy first month for Ambassador Sen, what with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting U.S. for the United Nations' General Assembly meeting.

The ambassador, nevertheless, paid a visit to Atlanta on Saturday, October 9th, to celebrate the 135th birth anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi at the Ebenezer Baptist Church and at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The same evening, he was the guest-of-honor at the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce's fourth annual banquet at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. At a press conference there, he discussed several controversial issues.

Commenting on outsourcing, the hot-button topic in this year's U.S. presidential race, the ambassador said that globalization isn't a "cherry-picking" exercise. "Given that America is trading in a global economy, outsourcing is undeserving of the negative connotation it has earned in the recent past," he said. "Private companies have the primary responsibility to their share holders and have to stay afloat. They also have to stay competitive and give their consumers value for money."

As the former Indian diplomat to Germany and United Kingdom, Ambassador Sen narrated how similar "outsourcing debates" in those two countries were resolved. Citing the example of United Kingdom, where Indian firms have more investments than the other way round, he explained, "Outsourcing is a two-way street. What we need is more Indian investments in the United States and that is bound to happen over a period of time."

While acknowledging the Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Ambassador Sen drew comparisons between the African-American community in the United States and the disadvantaged and minorities in India. "I don't think that the African-American community or for that matter any underprivileged community needs any handout. Instead, they need equal opportunities for education and employment, which emancipate and empower at the same time."

The ambassador spoke very proudly of the accomplishments of the Indian community in the U.S. while simultaneously underlining the similarities between the two countries. "Both India and the United States are multi-cultural and hail diversity. Both countries follow the federal system of governance and have people of different religions living in togetherness and peace," he asserted.

However, despite the similarities and despite the fact that India is one of the fastest growing economies of the 21st century, Western perception of India is still that of a country of snake charmers. When questioned about the outdated Western perception of India, Ambassador Sen replied, "Maybe we could have done a better job in bridging the gap between perception and reality, but we are not into packaging information for a favorable perception. Unfortunately the first impressions of India do tend to be negative. You land in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, at a ramshackle airport and then drive right through the worst slum in the entire country. That is the truth and any change will take time."

The ambassador emphatically denied that Prime Minister Singh, during his recent visit to the US, had made any attempt to lobby for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Claiming that the UNSC is not reflective of current times, he said, "The world cannot be compartmentalized into simplistic categories like "developed" and "developing." All we are saying is that the world, as it was at the end of the Second World War, is no longer the world that we live in today. And if one continues to ignore that reality, we cannot have a truly effective organization."

Continuing further, Ambassador Sen said, "One cannot deny the fact that India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, where people not only respect but indeed, celebrate different races and religions. India represents one-sixth of humanity, has the third largest armed force in the world, is one of the six countries in the world with full nuclear cycle activity and is a leading force in science and technology. India excels in all categories and we expect a global organization like the UN to be cognizant of this fact."

Expecting the intelligence scrutiny of the "dual citizenship law" to be taken care of by early 2005, the ambassador cited the Bhagwadgita and said that while most Indians stay connected to their cultural roots, they owe their first allegiance to the country of their residence.


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