x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Indian envoy predicts widespread Independence Day celebrations

In the nine months he’s been in his position, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, TP Seetharam, said he has been extremely impressed by his compatriots' achievements in the country.

Students and community members practise for the Indian independence day function at India Social Centre in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Students and community members practise for the Indian independence day function at India Social Centre in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // T P Seetharam, the Indian ambassador, is especially excited about this year’s Independence Day celebrations.

Not only is it his first in the UAE since he took up his position in December, he is also expecting the event to be even more widely celebrated than usual.

The 67th anniversary of independence from Britain falls on a Friday, which means it is the day most Indian expatriates are off work.

“This year, [Indian Independence Day] happens to be on Friday, so it is likely that a large number of Indians will participate in the celebrations,” he said.

In his nine months as ambassador, he said he had been extremely impressed by his countrymen’s achievements in the UAE.

“I have heard from rulers and leadership of the UAE that they are happy with the contribution the Indian community is making towards the development of the local economy,” he said.

This did not just mean their professional contribution, it also meant the large amount of money invested in the country’s economy.

“Their investment covers many areas, such as education, health, manufacturing, retail and the construction industries. And the list goes on,” he said.

The ambassador said that leading such a large community was an honour, not a challenge.

He said another impressive achievement was that Indians in the UAE generally abided by the laws of the land.

“I am reassured by the authorities that the Indian community has the lowest crime rate among expatriates,” he said.

That said, there had been a number of cases recently of indebted Indians committing suicide.

The ambassador, however, said he did not believe that suicide was rampant in the community, adding that one cannot generalise based on just a few cases.

“It is not a peculiar issue of UAE or among expatriates. This is a part of human tendencies, which are universal. If people live beyond their means, they will end up in difficulties.”

Mr Seetharam also said that India’s cultural and geographical proximity ensured that there was next to no identity crisis among the second and third generation of Indians born and brought up in the UAE.

“Perhaps there may be cultural shocks in other parts of the world but not here. There are so many Indian schools, which are the preferred choice for the Indian community, that provide Indian environment and education. Moreover, we are in such a large number that one doesn’t feel alienated.

“In fact, I am surprised when I roam around and go to a shop and ask some questions in English and they respond to me in my mother tongue [Malayalam],” he said.

According to him, Indians feel a sense of belonging here in the UAE.

“It’s a home away from home for Indians. And above all, Emirati friends are very warm and welcoming, which makes us comfortable,” he said.

This is partially based on a centuries-old relationship between the nations.

“It has been a traditionally economic relationship. There was a time when the Indian rupee used to be the currency in this part of the world. The Emiratis used to travel to Mumbai or along the west coast of India. Over centuries, the UAE used to export pearls and dates and dried fish to India.”

He said that people from this region also visited India for medical treatment. “Today, there are more than 100 flights operating between India and the UAE every day. India has been the largest trading partner for the UAE, touching $75 billion [Dh275bn]. Indians are the second largest investors, after Saudi Arabia, in real estate,” he said.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae