When Manpreet Vohra, India’s High Commissioner to Australia met with members of the Indian community at Sydney, it came with a gentle rap on the knuckles.
“While the Indian community in this country has been largely united and harmonious, fissures and fault lines have begun to appear that we must guard against,” he observed.
He was speaking at an official welcome at the Consulate General of India (Sydney) on 18 Nov.
Mr Vohra was no doubt referring to incidents in recent months that have caused unrest within the community and caught the attention of the mainstream.
“The campaigns of hate must remain at the fringe,” he stated, adding, “The discourse must remain sane.”
He warned gently that while the community currently enjoys mainstream regard, tolerance might wane if this recent trend is not nipped in the bud
“All the good that you are doing here, will be frittered away,” he said to the community representatives gathered on the occasion.
Consul General Manish Gupta and Mrs Nimeesha Gupta played host to Mr Vohra and Mrs Naseem Vohra in an event that was for many, the ‘coming out event’ post lockdown. Mr Vohra himself was meeting his compatriots in Sydney for the first time since taking office in April this year.
His tenure comes as India and Australia stand poised to see their relationship move up a significant notch.
“The comprehensive partnership that we are hoping to build involves a whole range of activity,” he said at the event. “There is hardly a ministry or department or agency that is not engaged. The government-to-government or G-to-G relationship is particularly good.”
He admitted however, and not unlike others before him, that “the relationship is sub par economically.”
“But there is hope and optimism, and my foremost challenge is to enthuse business to do more.”
He also revealed that the long-running negotiations on the free-trade agreement or Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) are currently on warp speed.
“We could be seeing ‘an early harvest’ by Christmas this year, and CECA by next year. It is surprisingly ambitious but can be done.”
As expected, Mr Vohra was the most photographed and the most ‘selfied’ person of the evening, although we are sure he was pleased to share this title with another guest Prof. Veena Sahajwalla.
The event also marked, unofficially, the first felicitations from the community to Prof. Sahajwalla as the newly announced 2022 NSW Australian of the Year.
Alongside upcoming celebrations of the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence for which the High Commission and Consulates are in preparation, the Sydney Consulate is marking its own milestone.
Consul General Manish Gupta mentioned in his welcome earlier in the evening, that his office is now 80 years old. It was launched in 1941 as the Trade Commission of India.
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