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Rousing farewell for deputy Indian envoy to US

By Aziz Haniffa
April 04, 2013 20:37 IST
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The deputy chief of mission at the Indian embassy in Washington, Ambassador Arun Kumar Singh was accorded a rousing farewell reception by a coalition of Indian American organizations in the DC area.

Singh, who came to Washington on October 8, 2009, after serving as India’s ambassador in Israel, leaves DC after a stint of more than four-and-a-half years as New Delhi’s new envoy to Paris.

He served through the tail-end of Ambassador Ronen Sen’s tenure, the full-term of Ambassador Meera Shankar, and nearly two years as deputy to Ambassador Nirupama Rao.

At the farewell, which attracted nearly 200 people on a Sunday evening, a slew of community leaders spoke of his warmth, his down-to-earth personality, and above all, always being there for the community by gracing every event the community hosted.

The core organizing committee also presented Singh with a commemoration plaque while Singh’s wife, Dr Maina Singh, an adjunct professor at AmericanUniversity, was also showered with bouquets of flowers.

In his remarks, Singh at the outset, infused some levity to peal of laughter, saying that “there have been so many references to the fact that I stayed here very long -- four-and-a-half-years -- and in fact, even I was beginning to get worried, because when I arrived at the embassy, the people who were here, they left after a while. Then those who came after them, also left after a while, and I was now working with the third generation at the embassy.”

“And, I was beginning to worry that one of these days, the US authorities might say that you should apply for a local employee visa,” he said.

Also, referring to comments that he had seen the terms of two US presidents -- George W Bush and Barack Obama, Singh noted, “Not only the terms of two US presidents, but the second term of a US president (Obama).”

Then, clearly getting emotional, Singh recalling the welcome he received from the Washington area Indian American community on his arrival nearly five years ago, said, “It is very heart-warming to find that many of those who were associated with than event are also present here today.”

“In that four-and-a-half years, we’ve done many things together -- the Prime Minister of India visited the US five times. The US President went to India and it was the first visit by a US president in his first-term to India after a gap of 22 years -- the others had gone in their second term.”

Singh spoke of the tremendous progress in the US-India relationship during this period, with enhanced trade, increase investment flows, the phenomenal exchange of delegations, and “the growing recognition in the US of the role that the Indian Diaspora is playing here.”

“There is growing recognition of the role that (Indian) doctors are playing -- more than 60,000 of them -- there is growing recognition of the role that Indians are playing in the hospitality industry -- more than 40 percent of hotel rooms being owned or managed by Indian Americans,” he said.

Singh said, “There is growing recognition of the achievements of the community and despite challenges, despite problems in certain areas, today the community comprises the highest earning ethnic group in this country.”

“If you look at education degrees achieved, again, among the various ethnic groups, this is the group with the highest percentage of people in the relative age bracket with higher education degrees,” he added.

Singh said, all of this made people in India proud too at the achievements and contributions of the Indian American community “and this has also enabled us to build more on the India-US partnership, because many people who come here have made successful lives for themselves and have also gone back to work in India with people in India even as they have continued their work here.”

Singh reiterated that “with this recognition, clearly the US government also finds it worthwhile to engage more with India, engage more with the community and then develop new schemes where there would be opportunities in the coming period for people from the community,” in areas of renewable energy, science and technology, and also in education.

“So, this shows the potential that we have for the coming period and it’s again based on the work all of you are doing and the experience many of you have in these areas,” he said.

Singh predicted that as the relationship between New Delhi and Washington “gets stronger, the value of the Indian American community will be recognized more in the society and the more the Indian American community succeeds in this society, there will be even more emphasis in India-US relations.”

“So, it is in this spirit that I would like to thank all of your for the continuous support you have provided, not just for me, but to the entire work of the embassy throughout, including the time that I was there,” he said, and exhorted the community “to continue with that process in the years to come.”

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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