Sydney Indian community meets High Commissioner Manpreet Vohra and his wife Naseem Vohra

By Neena Badhwar

On Thursday 18th of November, members of the Indian community finally met the current new High Commissioner to Canberra, H.E. Manpreet Vohra and his wife Naseem Vohra at the Consulate General of India. After lighting of the ceremonial lamps by him and his wife, Consul General Manish and his wife Nimeesha and Multicultural Chairperson Dr. Harinath, and Senator Lisa Singh, there were classical dances and folkdances by the children and a slide presentation on bilateral trade and relationship between and India and Australia.

H.E. Vohra thanked Ramanand Garge, of Vivekanand Cultural Centre, for his introduction, as he spoke quite eloquently and highly of the Indian community in Australia. Addressing the guests, he said,  “It’s been a  long time coming, finally to meet you all. It’s been refreshing to be in Sydney to meet old friends and make new ones. We have been in Canberra for seven months but due to Covid lockdown I have not been able to travel elsewhere but to be in Canberra where I have had the opportunity to meet a very large number of politicians and senior Australian officials. I must say that my heart swells with joy when I hear them talk of Indian community. Well done! to all of you, it is something really incredible. You are appreciated here, your contribution to Australian life, to its economy is valued greatly, you are valued  for your education, you are valued hugely for your law-abiding nature and for the effortless assimilation that you have done. How good Australians you have become even while remaining good Indians and making sure that colour of India is brought to the Australian society.”

Consul General Manish Gupta presented ‘India Connect’ Newsletter by the CGI Sydney
With Manjula Viswanath,Sagarika and children and Mrs.Naseem Vohra
H.E.Manpreet with the members of Bora Muslim Community of Sydney

Talking about the law-abiding nature of Indians here, “I went once before the lock down to QLD where I called upon the Chief Justice there. When I asked in her long career, last time that an Indian was hauled up before her. She took a long time, scratched her head and said ‘High Commissioner, I really can’t remember’. That is significant, for you all to remember and applaud yourself for, you are almost three quarters of a million here, though small, but a growing community of Australia, you make me proud as your High Commissioner over here.”

He mentioned about the relationship between the two countries, landmark events happening at the moment, a relationship that has developed over a few short years, from a more or less, a nice relationship but nothing much happening, to one of the most dynamic relationship not just for India but Australia too.”

Veena Sahajwalla, NSW Australian of the year 2021 with Senator Lisa Singh,Arti Banga, and Mala Mehta OAM

“It’s a sea change really, it’s on a high right now. The India-Australia relationship comprehensive strategic partnership, it’s not just a slogan or a fancy name. It’s incredible the range of activities, the range of issues, subject areas, that are a matter of close and regular interaction at very senior levels between India and Australia, hardly a ministry or department that you can think of, we are doing extremely well on G2G – government to government, on multiple fronts, India and Australia are doing very well, on every sector, there is no shortage of goodwill, optimism and friendship. We are together on important global issues, on defense and strategic affairs we see eye to eye, on Navy etc.”

“I continue to feel that on economic front we are somewhat performing sub-optimally. The Annual trade of 20-25 billion, the macro numbers may sound good, between India and Australia, but it seems stagnant for a while. Most of us would agree that something needs to be done to up that to a considerable extent. We do need to enthuse businesses to do more. To look at India beyond just selling coal and petrol, beyond just trade relationship, looking at geo-economics, geo-politics, looking beyond at over-dependence on certain countries, we need to diversify. It is one of my foremost challenges, we should look at economic futures, look at more reliable supply chains, to look at fault lines that have become more visible during the Covid pandemic. Australia needs to do more in terms of its direction on economy to move beyond just digging out iron and coal, which is easy because of the boom worldwide. It needs to look at the structure of its economy, get more into value addition, look more into manufacturing, there are far more areas that Australia can get into. Australian manufacturers researchers and innovators, while commercialising and taking their products into the market, not Australia which is comparatively much smaller to a market in India, a much bigger market. That is where we come into play, the Hydrogen, critical minerals such as Lithium, that is where India comes in. Partnering with India as we are already engaged through FTA – formally called CECA. We have started to finalise – early harvest agreement, aiming to an entire full CECA by next year, if we can do it, it would be a good achievement for both. A perfect fit between Indian and Australian economy is very natural one, which I do believe we can do.”

About the community here, “We are always here for you, for the community. I hope very much that we are united and a harmonious community. I know that there natural fissures and fault lines, there are campaign of misinformation, and disinformation, campaigns of hate and hatred. I want very much that they all remain at the fringe at best. I am quite confident that you all agree with me on this. Manish and other Consul Generals here in other cities will do their best. As Indian community members, well-meaning, well-educated citizens that we do not, as individuals, as groups, give oxygen to the fringe elements. The danger of what they can do should not be taken lightly. Let us fight that extremist fringe, let us make sure our discourse remains the same. If that was to go beyond, the Australian government will come down like a tonne of bricks, it will not work well for the rest of us all the good we have done to build a goodwill here. This is not a country that will tolerate.  And it’s a topic I tend to speak at every gathering that I can.”

Manpreet ji met invited guests quite patiently connecting to each and every person, and children who had entertained on the night with their dances mixing with them freely and in friendly and caring manner with no airs.

About His Excellency Manpreet Vohra:

Ambassador Manpreet Vohra arrived in Canberra on 25 April 2021 to assume his assignment as High Commissioner of India to Australia.

Ambassador Vohra joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1988. He was Ambassador of India to Mexico and High Commissioner to Belize (2019-21), Ambassador to Afghanistan (2016-18) and Ambassador to Peru and Bolivia (2011-15).

Earlier, he was Deputy High Commissioner in Pakistan (2007-09) and in Nairobi (2005-07) where he was also Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Environment Programme and UN-Habitat. Prior to this, he served in various capacities at the Indian Missions in Hong Kong, China, Mongolia and United Kingdom.

At the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, Ambassador Vohra was Additional Secretary (Administration; Consular, Passport, Visas; and Counter-Terrorism) during 2018-19, Joint Secretary (Development Partnership Administration-I) during 2015-16, and Deputy Secretary and Director (Disarmament & International Security Affairs) during 2000-02. From 2009-11, he was Joint Secretary & Officer on Special Duty in the Project Office to set up the South Asian University in New Delhi.

Ambassador Vohra was born in Amritsar on 28 December 1963. He has a BA in Economics and a Post-Graduate Diploma in International Trade from Punjab University, Chandigarh. He was a Chevening Scholar at Oxford University in 1999-2000 where he obtained a Certificate in Diplomatic Studies.

Ambassador Vohra is married to Naseem. They have a daughter and a son.

Pic Courtesy: Harmohan Walia and Neena Badhwar

Short URL: