High Commissioner Sarma bids farewell

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His Excellency Gitesh Sarma’s tenure in Australia was unlike any of his predecessors. Typically the Indian High Commissioner, while stationed in Canberra, will be on the road and meet and interact with government heads and the local Indian community in the various hubs around the nation. This was not the case with Gitesh Sarma, as a few months into his tenure here and having presented his credentials to Governor General David Hurley, the country and largely the whole world was forced into a lockdown. Diplomacy had to be conducted by Zoom.

At a farewell function hosted in Sydney by Consul General Manish Gupta, many local community members shared their memories of working and interacting with the departing High Commissioner. The Consul General himself acknowledged the challenges of the last year when a large number of Indians were stranded in Australia. Students, visiting parents and tourists were all caught on the wrong side of the border.

“A majority of these have now gone back, many on the Vande Bharat repatriation flights. There was strong and timely guidance from the High Commissioner as we worked through the challenges of putting people on the way back home,” the Consul General said.

The departing Indian High Commissioner Gitesh Sarma (centre).
Ratnamala and Gitesh Sarma (right) with Nimisha and Manish Gupta (left). Source: supplied

He also acknowledged the work done at the High Commission in building stronger bilateral ties between India and Australia, guided by Mr Sarma.

During his tenure as High Commissioner, the strategic defence ties between India and Australia have moved up a notch or two. With China’s aggressive geopolitical posturing in the southern seas, both countries have had increased interaction, with PM Morrison and PM Modi connecting digitally in the absence of either one-on-one talks or on the sidelines of international summits. The strengthening of the Quad – the dialogues between India, the United States, Japan and Australia – is also enhancing the relationship. One believes that the High Commission has been rather busy.

“The art of diplomacy is the art of making friends,” Mr Sarma observed. “All will be good after that. We all will be richer by the experience.”

The departing Indian High Commissioner Gitesh Sarma (centre).
Source: supplied

The High Commissioner also shared some memories from a diplomatic career sprinkled with significant and memorable postings. He happened to be serving in Moscow as the social fabric of the USSR changed diabolically, in Berlin when the wall was brought down, and in Hong Kong when it was handed back to the Chinese. Back home in Mumbai, his office was just around the corner when terrorists struck at the Taj Hotel. He will no doubt remember his time here in Australia as a posting dominated by a pandemic.

Yet it was mention of his early links with this country that touched hearts the most at the event. Mr Sarma remembered his time at school in Ranchi in northern India, which was founded by Christian missionaries from Australia. Some of them were his teachers, and he managed to locate and reunite with his Principal who is now retired in Melbourne.

 Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O'Farrell also bid farewell to the departing High Commissioner in a tweet.
Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell also bid farewell to the departing High Commissioner in a tweet. Source: Twitter

Mr Sarma looks to be in a good place as he hands the baton to incoming High Commissioner Manpreet Vohra, who is expected to join by end of April.

“We need a fresh pair of legs. India is set to take off globally, and so is the Australia-India relationship,” he said.

He also acknowledged the growing Indian Australian community.

“Indian restaurants are a good barometer of an Indian community anywhere in the world, and I must say there is a great community here,” he concluded.

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Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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