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Darpan's 10

DARPAN’s 10 with Vikas Swarup

Petrina D'Souza, 17 May, 2017
    India’s High Commissioner to Canada
    You are India’s High Commissioner to Canada. How would you describe this honour?
    I feel very privileged to be representing India in this fantastic country. My wife and I are still discovering our surroundings but I feel the warmth that we have received from Canadians as well as Indians who have made Canada their adopted home. And the potential that I see for developing the partnership between India and Canada in so many sectors has already justified to me my decision to come here. 
    What goals do you wish to achieve as the High Commissioner?
    Broadly to develop the partnership between India and Canada in every sector that is possible. I think the trade and investment side of the relationship is very important. Canadian pension funds are looking at India in a very big way now. We see a lot of potential in so many other sectors that have opened up, for example recently a healthcare conference was held with Canadian and Indian professionals to discus possibilities in that sector. Our sector for food processing is participating in a major food expo in Toronto. You name any sector and you see the possibilities and the potentials between India and Canada because the relationship is very synergestic; it’s a very complimentary relationship. We have the requirement of Canadian technology, resources and investment and we have a very big market for it. From both sides, it is a win-win partnership.
    How do you plan on making the consulate services more accessible to the people?
    Consulate services have been made much more accessible to the people. For instance, now you may not even come to the consulate if you are applying for a simple tourist visa. You can apply it online. Yes, for some services you still have to come to the consulate and our constant endeavour has been to make that particular experience as easy as possible. If there are specific complaints, then we are always happy to look into those. 
    What ideas relating to India would you like to introduce among Canadians?
    I think there is still inadequate appreciation of the tremendous amount of work that the Indian government has done to make doing business in India much more easier, and to simplify our rules and regulations. We have introduced a 10-year visa for Canadians to make it easier for them to travel to India for business or tourism. So I think there it not a full appreciation of the extent of change that is underway in India and the extent of the opportunities that are present now for Canadian businesses to take advantage of.
    India-Canada relations can be strengthened through trade and trade agreements. What is your take on that?
    Trade is certainly important; our current level is of around eight billion dollars which I think is way below potential. Canada is now our number one supplier of peas, potash and pulses. Beyond agricultural I think there are so many other sectors where Canadian companies can find a very good business environment and good market in India. In the infrastructure sector alone we need about a trillion dollars worth of investment and the government alone would not be able to meet that demand. So outside players are most welcome to participate in that. 
    What role does the ‘Make in India’ initiative play in building this relation?
    The Make in India program is very important for us; it provides a lot of opportunities to Canadian businesses to benefit from what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called the three Ds – democracy, demography and demand. We are the world’s largest democracy, demography meaning we are the youngest country in the world, the median age of people in India is still about 23-24, and finally demand – we are a nation of 1.2 billion people. The middle class has a lot of consumption potential which creates a massive demand for all kinds of goods. From all these perspectives you see that India is the only country which can really provide these three elements in the kind of magnitude which no other country can provide.
    Canada is home to many Indians, with the Cabinet including Indian members. What are your views on the Indian representation in Canada?
    That for me is my biggest asset and advantage. No other Indian commissioner or ambassador can boast of having 19 Members of Parliament of Indian origin in the national Parliament and four ministers of Indian origin. My great advantage is that I’m not the only high commissioner here, there are 1.2 million Indian ambassadors in Canada – the Indian community with its sheer dint of hard work, perseverance, commitment to family values, and rule of law has made such a brilliant name for itself in all walks of life. 
    You were greatly responsible in boosting the Ministry of External Affairs’ social media outreach. What role does social media play in today’s world?
    Social media is very important because its advantage is that it allows you to cut through the bureaucracy and reach the person you want directly. We are very alive to the possibilities that are there in social media and to the fact that the communication has to be instantaneous and response has to be immediate. We believe that social media is an excellent tool for putting out our side of the story, for alerting people about what is happening in India, about changes in our visa or passport regulation for instance, and it is a great way for the ordinary folks to reach out to us as a way of grievance redressal. If they have a particular problem and they are not getting a solution, you can reach out to us via social media and expect an immediate response.
    Do share your interest in writing.
    I have written three novels. Writing is a passion but it is strictly something that I do in my spare time. It’s only on weekends that I can think of conceptualizing something and indulging my passion. So far, I have been busy in Canada and have not thought about writing anything but I’m hopeful that Canada is such a beautiful country, people are so nice, warm and inspiring that eventually I will get inspired here. 
    Any future writing plans?
    The way the writing process works is a very mysterious one. When an idea strikes you, you really can’t say. It can strike you whenever. Basically I let the creative process work its own mysterious ways, I do not seek inspiration, inspiration comes to me. So as and when that happens, that’s when I will start thinking of a new book.
    The way the writing process works is a very mysterious one. When an idea strikes you, you really can’t say. It can strike you whenever. Basically I let the creative process work its own mysterious ways, I do not seek inspiration, inspiration comes to me. So as and when that happens, that’s when I will start thinking of a new book.

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