In an exclusive interview, outgoing Indian High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Y.K. Sinha speaks to IndiaGBnews special correspondent Aline Dobbie about his time in London.
This has been your last posting as a High Commissioner/Ambassador YE, what was the high point of this short time in London?
Even though my tenure as High Commissioner of India to the Court of St. James’s has been slightly less than two years, it has been particularly eventful and satisfying. Within weeks of my arrival, Her Majesty The Queen launched the India-UK Year of Culture at a glittering and memorable reception at Buckingham Palace.
A colourful projection of the national bird of India, the Peacock, on the façade of the Palace was a visual delight and I understand that such a projection was being done for the first time. The year-long celebrations both in UK and India reinforced the close and symbiotic links between our two countries.
The other high point of my tenure in the UK was the visit of the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April this year. Prime Minister had numerous engagements, including a private audience with Her Majesty, a joint event with HRH The Prince of Wales, and two separate meetings with Prime Minister May. The visit underscored the importance of the bilateral relationship and further built on the landmark visit of Prime Minister Modi to UK in November 2015 and the return visit by Prime Minister May in November 2016.
India is on the cusp of real greatness but do you feel that the nation fully comprehends that it needs All of India, all that can, to put their shoulders to the wheel to ensure success?
While we are justifiably proud that India is a flourishing democracy, the world’s largest, if you compare what India was in 1947 to what it has achieved in the 71 years since gaining freedom, you will appreciate what has been achieved. Notwithstanding global economic head winds with rising oil prices and an uncertain economic environment, India continues to remain the fastest growing large economy in the world. Various national missions launched by the government in the last four years or so like Make in India, Clean India, Digital India, Skill India, as well as various financial inclusion schemes and the recently launched National Health Protection Scheme are transforming the landscape of the country. Millions are being lifted out of poverty. It is imperative that all Indians contribute to India’s inexorable drive towards growth, development and prosperity. Both individual and collective efforts contribute towards the Indian success story and a united and comprehensive approach will lead to even greater success.
There are testing times ahead for the UK, but it would be so good if because of BREXIT the UK seriously has revalued its connections with India, with Australia, with Canada and with New Zealand. There are naturally other Commonwealth Countries but some of them have their own great challenges. India stands out as being in a good place.
Within the Commonwealth, India is by far the largest country, in terms of population, with more than half of its people residing in India. It is uniquely placed to play a far greater role in the Commonwealth. The Indian economy is set to overtake that of the UK and become the largest economy of the Commonwealth in the near future. It is the engine that will drive trade, investments and economic growth among its member states. After Brexit, a Global Britain will need to focus on countries outside the Continent and India is ready to partner with UK in its endeavour to reach out to old and new friends.
Looking back on your time representing India at a high level what would you consider the most worthwhile moments.
It is always difficult to pinpoint the most worthwhile moments in a long diplomatic career of over 37 years. There have been many highs and even some lows but the honour and privilege of representing my country abroad is something that I will cherish forever.
“It has been a long journey and yet a satisfying one, particularly in the context of India’s rising profile within the comity of nations.”
Might we look to a second career for you once you are rested and re-established at your home in Delhi/Bihar?
As they say, 60 is the new 40 and hence I look forward to taking guard for a second innings. I am sanguine that the experience and knowledge gained in the diplomatic service will stand me in good stead while negotiating the challenges that are thrown my way.
India is now trying hard in some aspects with promoting its tourism, but some states lack progress, one being Bihar which is your cherished home state. Any ideas?
The attractions of Incredible India beckon people from far and wide. While the number of tourist arrivals increase significantly year on year, the emphasis given on building infrastructure will make India an even more attractive tourist destination.
My home state Bihar, in many ways one of the cradles of human civilisation, has a lot to offer. Patna or the ancient Patliputra was the seat of power in ancient India from the times of the Mauryan Empire in the 4th and 3rd century BCE. The rich and varied legacy of Bihar, manifest in the spread of Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions are a testimony to what the state has to offer. The recently built Civilisation Gate in Patna symbolises this great heritage, encompassing the ancient Barabar Caves of the Ajivikas, Bodh Gaya, the place of enlightenment of Lord Buddha, and the greatest and biggest university in the ancient world, Nalanda. Bihar has a great deal to offer. Tourism is now being actively promoted through the Buddhist circuit. Last year the 350th birth anniversary of the great Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singhji, who was born in Patna, was celebrated with great enthusiasm.
You have followed as a Son a most distinguished Father who served India so well in three careers – I personally wish the same for you, he would be so proud.
I am happy to have been able to continue the proud traditions of my family in the service of the nation.
Main image: (L-R) Mrs G Sinha, High Commissioner of India Mr Y.K. Sinha and Aline Dobbie.
Aline Dobbie is one of the UK’s foremost authorities on India. Born in India to Scottish parents she spent the first 16 years of her life in the sub-continent. An acclaimed travel writer, Aline is the author of a celebrated trilogy of books on India, including The Peacock’s Call – www.thepeacockscall.co.uk