Any diplomat from India serving in our ethnically diversified society faces a “tiptoe” challenge. The distinguished 54-year-old Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu is a natural diplomat – equipped with five languages, service in China, London, Tehran and Canada, a master’s degree from King's College, London in War in the Modern World, another in linguistics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and as senior official in several departments of the Indian government.
After three years’ service here, High Commissioner Sahu leaves for India early next month.
But for us, as lavishly explained by Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez and San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, the High Commissioner's service in our country was significantly productive, distinguished and memorable – opinions expressed at last week’s farewell reception for him held at the Mahatma Gandhi Culture Centre.
Mayor Martinez declared: “No other high commissioner has produced as much as Commissioner Sahu.” (Loud applause, standing ovation)
Given the current wheat shortage, it may be a useful diplomatic exercise if both Minister of Trade Paula Gopee-Scoon and Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne should meet early with Mr Sahu to help ensure a sustainable measure of wheat imports, notwithstanding India’s tightened export of the commodity. Mr Sahu will be attached to India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Delhi, as a senior official.
The affable, quiet-spoken High Commissioner assisted in a range of civic and cultural projects, including yoga and temple activities. In fact, in Tobago he was encouraged by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, whose “stop the racialism” message found deep resonance for the way forward, dumping the “Calcutta ship coming” scare in the political dustbin. Augustine’s message helped pave the way for the establishment of the first Hindu temple in Tobago with Mr Sahu’s assistance.
He has written a colourful 100-page book entitled Trinidad and Tobago: A Diplomatic Cultural Expedition, in which he listed his major accomplishments, meetings and cultural observations. He expressed delight in meeting “those in the streets” and rural folk – a people’s diplomat.
He was also concurrent ambassador to Grenada and Dominica, where he met their respective leaders to promote programmes of mutual interest.
Last month, India’s President Ram Nath Govind visited Jamaica and St Vincent. There he explained India’s strategic importance to Caricom.
As Mayor Regrello noted, Mr Sahu helped with India’s donation of vaccines “to save lives” here, and he did it with diplomatic dignity.
In several discussions with him, I was impressed with his intellectual modesty and his vast knowledge of India’s troubled but courageous crusade for political independence. His narratives about India’s parliamentary democracy – challenged by hundreds of different languages and ethnic differences – helped him work through our own ethnic diversity. He has a natural, soothing temperament which helps attract co-operation and productivity in his efforts, a quality noted by both mayors.
He could not hide his anguish, however, when peace-movement icon Gandhi’s statue in San Fernando was mischievously defaced. Who would want to do something like this? he quietly asked.
The Indian diplomat is a well-rounded civil servant. He writes poetry and short stories, while his wife, Sasmita Mishra Sahu, is a reputable professional painter and an art historian.
We wish him and his family a safe return and look forward to his successor.