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“The Immediate Focus Is On Purposefully Dealing With The Challenges On The Road To Recovery.” – Hon Dr Virander K Paul

“The Immediate Focus Is On Purposefully Dealing With The Challenges On The Road To Recovery.” – Hon Dr Virander K Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hon Dr Virander K Paul was appointed the High Commissioner of India to Kenya in August 2020. Having joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1991, Dr Paul has held diplomatic positions in the Indian Missions in Almaty, Vladivostok, Rome and St. Petersburg, Moscow, Washington and London to name a few.  A holder of Masters degree from All India Institute of Medical Services (AIIMS), Dr Paul is also a multilingual who can speak Russian among other languages. Ahead of the Indian Republic Day on 26th January, Hon Dr Paul speaks on strengthening India-Kenya relations and more.

BY JAVED KANA

It is an honour to welcome you as the High Commissioner of India to Kenya. Briefly take us through your career trajectory in the foreign service.

I joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1991. Except for the period 2007-2010 when I served in the Prime Minister’s Office, I have been either in the Foreign Office in New Delhi or in the Missions abroad – Almaty, Vladivostok, Rome, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Washington, London and Geneva. And now in this beautiful country… It has been a wonderful journey!

You hold a degree from All India Institute of Medical Services (AIIMS). How and when did the transition from medicine to foreign service happen?

It began as an irresistible impulse in a young mind. I am not sure if I could make such a switchover today. But no regrets! AIIMS taught me to think to find solutions. And that learning has not gone waste. Medicine is about managing disorder and promoting order in the most complex system ever known, the human body. A doctor’s problem-solving approach is required in all walks of life.

Absolutely! Within a few months after your appointment, the Covid-19 lockdown happened in Kenya. What impact did the pandemic-related restrictions have on your plans/initiatives?

This pandemic has proved to be a most tragic crisis of our times, causing unprecedented suffering and disability. It has truly been global. Life saving public health measures, which we all must continue to dutifully follow, have imposed restrictions on travel and physical meetings. The virus will not remain with us forever. We will steadily be back on our feet, stronger!

Kenya and India have enjoyed warm and friendly relations for decades. As the High Commissioner, what are the immediate key focus areas you will concentrate on to further enhance bilateral relations between the two countries?

It will remain my endeavour to contribute fully to the further strengthening of the traditionally strong and friendly relations between India and Kenya, using all available potential in diverse areas. Covid-19 has demonstrated how incredibly vulnerable all countries are. The immediate focus is on purposefully dealing with the challenges on the road to recovery. And it is daunting. In this context, we are already examining possibilities of bringing about early resumption of bilateral trade, travel and tourism. Under the circumstances, practically all areas such as healthcare, pharma, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, transport, power, connectivity, education et cetera automatically come under the larger focus. The goal is to restore economic growth and development, bringing relief to the people.

On that note, Kenya recently announced that it’s open to welcome the Indian market to boost tourism. What are your views on this announcement?

Tourism industry is inherently heavily dependent on travel. Covid-19 has not yet allowed full resumption of travel. When favourable conditions return, we would be actively promoting the two-way tourism between our two countries – “Incredible India” and “Magical Kenya”! Till such time we reach that stage, I would strongly advise that we undertake only essential travel and continue to carefully follow all travel advisories and Covid directives. To act responsibly is to protect our communities.

India is among the chosen destinations by Kenyans for medical tourism as well as education. What do you think makes India so attractive?

World-class specialised treatment in world-class hospitals by highly qualified expert doctors at affordable costs makes India an extremely attractive destination for healing. It has huge potential to grow even further. There is deep trust and confidence in specialized care in India.

Are there any new initiatives/projects of mutual benefit to the two countries that you hope to kickstart during your tenure as the High Commissioner?

In an environment where economies are increasingly driven by knowledge and new technologies at an accelerating pace, I would look forward to new sharply focussed joint initiatives in education, science, technology, research and innovation. It would no doubt require a lot of hard work on both sides over an extended period. But the outcomes will truly be worth the effort, I am sure.

What is your message to Indians residing in Kenya and the community at large ahead of the Indian Republic Day?

On the occasion of the Republic Day of India, I wish the entire Indian community in Kenya the very best in their endeavours in contributing even more to Kenya and continue to serve as a living bridge between our two countries. The hard-earned reputation of the community as being peace-loving, law-abiding, hard-working, successful, and responsible people makes us proud. I would also invite the community to come forward to actively participate in the Atmanirbahr Bharat (Self-reliant India) campaign. Importantly, I wish all fellow Indians the best of health. Stay safe and well!

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