Indian-origin diplomats in New Delhi
Earlier in April, Harinder Sidhu presented her credentials to President Pranab Mukherjee as Australia's High Commissioner to India.
Earlier in April, Harinder Sidhu presented her credentials to President Pranab Mukherjee as Australia's High Commissioner to India. She thus joins two other western Heads of Mission of Indian origin in New Delhi—Ambassador Richard R. Verma of the United States and High Commissioner Nadir Patel of Canada. It was not always like this. A western power being represented in India in any capacity by a non-Anglo Saxon/Celtic was unthinkable just 20 odd years ago—until the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs broke the mold by appointing me, India born, as Australia's Deputy High Commissioner to New Delhi. The mosaic of reactions both at home and in India to this path-breaking move gives some idea of the prevailing social climate then.
Reservations about my appointment were discernible enough in the corridors of foreign policy-related establishments in Canberra. But political correctness kept them muted. Though New Delhi was nowhere near as sought after as Washington or London, the post-1991 reformist India was beginning to bud in official consciousness as a posting to make a mark in. My selection did not exactly endear me to other contenders. There was restrained amusement too at the Department's naivety in assuming that sending a 'native' to his original habitat would somehow improve bilateral diplomatic relations with a 'difficult' country. Overall, my selection was perceived at best as presenting a new visage of Australian diplomacy on the Asian stage and, at worst, as the Foreign Secretary currying favour with the ruling Labor Government, which was unequivocally committed to multiculturalism in public service.