This letter was written to the Irish ambassador in India, after my wife was nearly denied a visa to Ireland, but it could be addressed to all the ambassadors of the Delhi diplomatic enclave, as most of them fall in the same category.
LETTER TO AN AMBASSADOR
Dear Mr Ambassador,
Wanted to thank you for my wife’s visa, as I have no doubt the sanction ultimately came from you.
At the same time, allow me a few comments, as I have been living in India for 45 years and that probably entitles me to my own opinions, however wrong they may be.
New Delhi remains very much a British capital, far away AND CUT from the rest of India – and the diplomatic enclave of Shanti Path / Chanakya Puri, a luxury ghetto, where it is even more difficult to have a clear idea of what India is really about, as the same clichéd ideas are repeated at every diplomatic cocktail and every journalists’ parties.
The capital i is full of young arrogant diplmomats, such as Arnaud Mentre, the Press Attaché of the French embassy, who think that in 2 or 3 years,they know everything about India, but actually go back with all the prejudices they came with, without having learnt anything (of course, there are exceptions: Peter Vrooman, the ‘sympathique’ Press Councilor of the US embassy is one)
The British, your erstwhile enemy, created an entire class of Indians, which formed their buffer middle zone, so as to govern this country through proxy. In this way, their army was mostly constituted of Indians – and you know,that a million of them fought during the Great War (1914-1918), a hundred years ago, in a conflict that did not concern them.
I find that the foreign embassies in Delhi have replicated the same system: from your security guards, to many of the visa officers, Indians unfortunate enough to seek a visa, often have to deal with Indians.
It is sad that those Indians, these brown ‘sahebs’, as those created by the British, often want to be more British than the British, more Irish than the Irish, or more French than the French, in the case of the Pondichery Tamils, rejecting their Indian roots, though in truth, they are never fully accepted as one of their own by their white masters. Thus they have to make a show of being tough with those of their brothers and sisters seeking a visa. In the case of my wife’s visa, while Peter Frisby, you consular head, seemed pretty open, it is your Indian visa officer, Mrs Dass, who created the problems for my wife and wanted to apply the rule to the letter, even though we had submitted an online application which she retrieved, as she called my wife on the mobile mentioned in the application. It’s only become I am myself a foreigner and a fairly well known journalist, that she ultimately got it. An ordinary Indian would have been rebuffed.
It seems to me that foreign embassies in India act as if they are doing a favour by granting a visa. But it is actually the opposite: my wife, as millions of Indians, is going to spend her money in your country, travel by your airline, stay in your hotels and generally grace you country. It however breaks my heart when I see the long lines of Indians queuing at the UK or US embassy, the biggest brain drain in the world ever. That they are badly treated by the embassies, made to wait long in the heat, to come back repeatedly and their visas often denied, is another matter.
It has been my belief for long, that as in the case of China, one day it will be westerners who will queuing for employment opportunities in India, the next superpower in the world, for it is everything that China is, plus democracy, legality and friendliness to the West.
Awaiting this day, please rest assured of my best feelings
Correspondent South Asia Valeurs Actuelles
Editor in Chief La Revue de l’Inde, Paris
Author The Guru of Joy/ A History of India as it Happened