My interview with former Indian Ambassador the late Dr George Joseph

INDIANS in Bahrain must share the good times and the bad with their hosts, each supporting the other, says their new ambassador.”Millions of Indians have come here in the Gulf and gone and many have improved their living conditions and knowledge,” said Ambassador Dr George Joseph.”We have to be conscious that we are part of this country. Its happiness is our happiness and its problems are ​ ​our problems.​ ​”What we do individually or as a group, contributes to the wholesome development of this country.”

Dr Joseph said he was delighted to be in a country which had pioneered far­sighted reforms for the benefit of its people.He presented his credentials to His Majesty King Hamad on Tuesday with a “sense of joy, pride and satisfaction”.

This is his fifth posting in the Gulf, after serving in Qatar and prior to that Dubai, and twice in Saudi Arabia.

“I was particularly overjoyed and charmed by the news that my posting was to Bahrain,” he said.

Dr Joseph said he used to envy the working conditions of Indian Ambassadors in Bahrain, from what he heard at the annual meetings of the heads of Indian missions in the Gulf.”Bahrain has pioneered in many areas that bring benefit to its people, particularly the far­sighted reform process,”he added.

“Bahrain has taken effective steps to streamline the huge number of foreign guest workers.

“I do not want to call the Indian community here as non­resident Indians, as whatever starts with ‘non’ gives a negative meaning.”On arrival in Bahrain, I was convinced of the government’s concern and its fairness in treating foreigners in an exemplary manner.”Dr Joseph said he had been to countries blessed by God with immense natural resources.

Among them were Canada, the US, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“All these countries had different sets of positive realities, assets, opportunities, and power. That is not very important,” said Dr Joseph.”I consider worth watching countries that are bold enough to take experiments, and leap into the unknown.

“I was in China in 1980s during an exciting period, when it was debating the advantages of various systems. It was a period of intellectual fermentation.”You are taking a risk while experimenting. But remember that your achievement is less important than the courage to make an effort for it.”

Bahrain has done serious experiments aimed to give its population a fairer and brighter future, said Dr Joseph.

“The true parallel is the India of Jawaharlal Nehru’s time. People were able to benefit from his experiments 50 years later,” he noted.”The Gulf is a small geographical entity. Everyone follows what everyone else is doing. There are many new developments, some are reactive and others proactive.

“In labour relations, Bahrain is trying to catch up with the demand of modern day economics and is yet ensuring its identity.”

​ ​An Indian ambassador in the Gulf has a dual role to play, said Dr Joseph.

“Improvement of bilateral relations is his prime duty,” he added.

“While strengthening political, economic, trade and investment ties, we also have to take care of the interests of the large Indian community.”The Indian community is an additional asset and an additional responsibility for an ambassador.

“Asset, because they have been living here for many years and have become a permanent databank of memory.

“At the same time, they have many claims to their government, which have to be mainly channelled through the ambassador.”I have to be attentive and sensitive to their demands. I cannot edit. I cannot interpret. I cannot filter their wishes.

I have to convey them to my government faithfully.”

Dr Joseph urged Indians in Bahrain to continue their role as contributing members of the society they live in, taking only what they need.”We in India believe in democracy, not because this is the best, but because there is nothing better known to us now,” he added.

“While we are outside India, one of the best model which befits us is aristocracy. The Greek word Aristo means ‘best’.”While the best is given by the rulers, take only what you need and leave the rest for others to enjoy. We should be here as value additions.”Dr Joseph praised Bahrain’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority and Tamkeen (Labour Fund), for working towards preparing Bahraini citizens to take up creative and meaningful roles.

“We also have an obligation to support such initiatives of the government,” he added.

Dr Joseph said all Indian associations in Bahrain should be purpose­driven.

“In India our unity does not suppress our diversity,” he noted.

“This is a great opportunity for people from various states to come together. We have to encourage one another and share other people’s grief.”Our differences should not lead to rivalry. Any debate should leave both parties appreciative of the other person’s views. The end has to be greater than the means.

“The best thing you can do is to share a concern for those who do not enjoy the same privilege as you do.”

Dr Joseph said he would like to see an Indian community which was determined to give their best for their homeland and the host country.”Every leaf of a tree, under which we seek a shelter, is sacred to us,” he noted.

On the current economic recession, Dr Joseph said the time for preparing for the eventuality was now.

“If it does not happen, thank God. Time is the most precious resource God has given us,” he added.

“If skilled people have to go back to India, they should pool their resources and become a group of service providers in their villages. ”

On the political level, Dr Joseph said it was important to have more exchanges of high­level visits between the two countries.

“We are now looking forward to the first state visit of His Majesty King Hamad to India this year,” he added.

“India is now preparing for a general election, and this is not the right time for such an important visit.

“We hope the landmark visit will take place after the new government takes charge.”

Dr Joseph

​ has served several Indian missions around the world after joining the Indian Foreign Service in July, 1976.

He is a post­graduate in Russian literature and he holds a PhD (doctorate) in international relations.

He speaks English and Malayalam and is proficient in Russian, Chinese and Latin.

Dr Joseph and his wife Rani George, have a daughter, Renu,who lives in Dubai.

She is married to Wynn John, principal of the Gulf Indian School, Dubai.