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India names head of new consulate in China

Last updated on: August 28, 2007 14:38 IST

Gautam Bambawale, an Indian Foreign Service official, who is currently minister for political affairs and the head of the political wing at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, has been named to head the new Indian Consulate in Guangzhou, China.

The consulate is scheduled to open its doors in October and it will be formally inaugurated in December when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is slated to make a visit to China.

The opening of this office in Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, in southern China, comes in the wake of an agreement between New Delhi and Beijing, for opening reciprocal consulates -- India at Guangzhou and China at Kolkata -- that was reached between the two governments more than two years ago.

Bambawale is one of the most fluent speakers of Mandarin in the IFS and has already served three terms in China -- in Hong Kong between 1985 and 1988; at the Embassy in Beijing between 1988 and 1991; and then again in Beijing between 1998 and 2001, during which he served as the deputy chief of mission. In between these stints, Bambawale served as undersecretary on the China desk at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi in 1991.

Besides his expertise on China, Bambawale is also a specialist in US-India affairs having served as the deputy secretary for the Americas at the MEA headquarters in 1992-94 and now is head of the political wing at the embassy in DC, where he has had a ringside view of the transformation of relationship between the two countries and the envisaged US-India strategic partnership.

An expert in India-China boundary matters, Bambawale was serving in Beijing in December 1988 during the path breaking visit of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, which led to the rapprochement between the two nations.

Ever since the tensions between the two Asian giants has witnessed a rapid development of trade and economic relations and people-to-people ties have also seen a marked increase with a steep rise in travel and tourism between the two countries.

With China expected to overtake the US as India's largest trading partner, Bambawale acknowledged that the "basic rationale for the new Consulate is the burgeoning trade."

He told that the establishment of the new consulate in Guangzhou makes perfect sense and assumes special significance since southern China is home to three of China's Special Economic Zones and the center of China's vast manufacturing industry.

 "Also, we need to cover China more intensively as our interests expand. Given the size of that country this will require more consulates. At present, we have just the embassy in Beijing and two consulates in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

A native of Pune, Bambawale is an alumnus of the prestigious Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, from where he received his master's degree in economics.

He joined the IFS in 1984, and opted to learn Mandarin as his foreign language that came in as a tremendous asset as his first foreign postings were in Hong Kong and Beijing.

When he was not serving in either Hong Kong or Beijing on in the MEA headquarters, Bambawale was director of the Indian Cultural Centre in Berlin between 1994 and 1998 and was also for a time in the Prime Minister's Office as deputy chief for the division of national security affairs, defense and international policy."

He joined the embassy in Washington, DC in July 2004.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC