I liked every bit of my tenure here, says outgoing Indian diplomat Vipul
Vipul has maintained an easy to access that has strengthened Indian community relations with various local authorities in Dubai.
From launching economic partnership summits to streamlining the processes to resolve community issues, the outgoing Consul-General of India to Dubai, Vipul, has been instrumental in strengthening India-UAE bilateral relations.
After a successful three-year stint that began on May 2017, the Consul-General of India to Dubai Vipul is set to depart from Dubai on July 7.
Hailed as a 'community hero' and 'CG for the common man' by Indian business and community leaders, Vipul has maintained an easy to access, down-to-earth approach that has strengthened Indian community relations with various local authorities in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. He has time and again mobilised his team and extended community support during extremely challenging situations, such as the UAE Amnesty 2018, the Oman bus tragedy, and now the Vande Bharat Mission.
Khaleej Times sat down with him for a chat ahead of his travel on board one of the special repatriation flights on July 7. Here is an excerpt:
KT: What can you say about your three-year tenure here?
Vipul: I've liked every bit of my tenure here. There are two issues that I have focused on, more than the others - community, and trade and investment. I have been able to experience a very good partnership and friendship with the UAE, and go back very satisfied with it. The exchange of visits by the UAE and Indian leadership is a testament to the wonderful friendship the two countries share. For a diplomat, there is nothing bigger than that. Furthermore, I am very pleased after having dealt with the Covid-19 situation as well.
KT: You were able to mobilise the community by forming volunteer committees and monthly open houses. How did that help the consulate?
Vipul: The strength of our relationship is the Indian community. We are large in number here, thanks to India's diversity and the welcome that is given by the UAE leadership. India's entire diversity is on display here in the UAE, and it is the job of the Consulate-General to have channels of communication with every community.
In the UAE, the Indian community is very well connected - both among themselves and with the missions. The aim was to create one platform, and the decision to meet on a regular basis with the community began with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in 2018, where we sent the biggest delegation of visitors to India. We took that forward and it eventually became a monthly meeting. I still think it is a work in progress and more can be done, especially reviving the Indian Association in Dubai.
KT: Was the Indian community in the UAE fragmented before you took charge?
Vipul: Not at all, the community was fairly well-connected. We have a lot of groups here that reflect the diversity of India. However, we needed a focal point, where everyone can come together - which is either an Indian association or the consulate. There were a lot of people in the community that needed support, and there are many who were looking to do philanthropic work. The consulate connected both. We created groups that focused on education, business, medical cases, labour, seafarers' issues etc.
KT: What about social media? How did the consulate use it during your tenure?
Vipul: We did focus a lot on Twitter to hear from the public, but that is not something we invented. Indian missions across the world are active on Twitter and other social media channels. However, we decided to take it to the next level by being more proactive and sharing all our activities on social media so that people know what the consulate is doing and how they can access us. Also, we received instant feedback from the community about our initiatives - if what we are doing is right or wrong.
KT: What were your most challenging/ greatest highlights as Consul-General?
Vipul: Handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge. Every day posed some new challenge; from supporting communities to providing food and medicine to those in isolation and of course the repatriation mission has been very hectic. There is also the UAE Amnesty, the Oman bus tragedy and resolving the seafarer's issues. Thanks to the excellent support from the Federal Transport Authority, the seafarer's issues were largely resolved.
KT: The repatriation mission - how does that go?
Vipul: Well, we began work towards the repatriation mission on April 29, that is when we launched our database and the website crashed. We spent the whole night working on it with our website developer to get it up and running. Obviously, a huge number of people registered for repatriation, which began on May 7.
The biggest challenge has been to select distressed cases to travel on these limited flights. Priority had to be given to medical and death cases. The community played a very big role in highlighting particular cases to us. When we started chartered flights, it had its own set of challenges - we were coordinating the charter of 40-45 flights every day. As for the issue of stranded Indians returning to the UAE, both countries' leaderships are trying to resolve that.
KT: What would you say about your team?
Vipul: I was fortunate to have a very good set of consuls and vice-consuls. I delegated a lot of work to them and they were all able to take care of their own sets of responsibilities and fill in for others whenever there was a need. However, our success is determined by the support from the local authorities, and we have wonderful support from the Dubai Health Authority, immigration authorities, Dubai Police and from everywhere, the approach was of trying to resolve the issues.
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