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The event began with cultural performances including a kathak-based dance drama depicting the story behind Diwali celebrations by the Gurukul Group Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A celebration of the International Day of Diplomats that highlights the significant role played by diplomats across the world was held in Diwali style in Dubai on Sunday night.

The Indian Consulate in Dubai organised the celebration on the eve of the Hindu festival of lights, which this year falls on the same day of sixth International Day of Diplomats, observed on October 24.

Top diplomats from various countries’ missions in Dubai attended the event. Many of them wore ethnic Indian outfits, sharing the festive spirit.

The event began with cultural performances including a kathak-based dance drama depicting the story behind Diwali celebrations by the Gurukul Group.

It was followed by the screening of a video message from Indian poet-diplomat Abhay Kumar, who was instrumental in organising the first International Day of Diplomats in Brasilia on October 24, 2017.

Currently serving as the Deputy Director General of Indian Council of Cultural Relations in New Delhi, Kumar had proposed the idea of celebrating the day to recognise the contributions and sacrifices of the diplomats of every country who play a vital role in maintaining world peace. In his video message, the former Indian Ambassador to Madagascar and Comoros said “a country with skillful diplomat does not have to go to war”.

Soldiers without uniforms

Starting his speech on a lighter note, Consul General of India in Dubai, Dr Aman Puri said people have very different interpretations and perceptions about diplomats. “In some cases, we feel that mostly diplomats are seen wining and dining. And that is perhaps something which they do most of the time. Sometimes people also confuse diplomats with Double O Seven (secret service code of James Bond’s character). And they believe that we perhaps end up doing extraordinary, magical feats. But I must say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle,” he added.

Dr Aman Puri (fifth from right) with foreign diplomats during the celebrations of the International Day of Diplomats and Diwali at the Indian Consulate in Dubai on Sunday night Image Credit: Supplied

Diplomats can also be called as soldiers without uniforms, serving their home countries in different parts of the globe…sometimes in difficult situations, sometimes bringing themselves in the line of fire... But I think that is part of our role in protecting and promoting national interest.

“Diplomats, by their serious work, try to build bridges, try to connect peoples in different countries, creating the economic connections, the cultural connections, the academic connections, and of course, supporting the people-to-people contact, which is truly the bedrock of bringing countries and governments closer to each other.”

UAE a shining example

Dr Puri took the opportunity to laud the diplomatic efforts of the UAE.

“In this regard, I think it’s important for all of us here sitting in Dubai, to celebrate the UAE’s achievements of signing the historic Abraham Accords with Israel and creating the foundation, the bedrock, the framework for regional peace, leading to global peace. And it is important for us to celebrate the UAE as a shining example of new diplomacy, of using economic relationship in building those bridges of peace and friendship from which all of us living in different parts of the globe, we all benefit from that and they are a huge inspiration for each and every country globally,” he said.

The Consul General said the truly visionary UAE leadership and the UAE authorities have always been a benchmark in the way they conduct diplomacy. “We see the relationships between the UAE and several other countries growing stronger day-by-day. Of course, we are very proud of the extraordinary relationship which we [Indians] enjoy with the UAE, which goes back to several millennia.”

Indian expats, true ambassadors

Dr Puri pointed out that the UAE is home to close to 3.5 million Indian nationals. “This is the single largest Indian community living anywhere in the world. So this brings me also to the splendid Diwali celebrations in Dubai, which truly become special because of this large and vibrant Indian community, bringing the Diwali cheer, sharing the spirit of Diwali, with all their brothers and sisters from over 200 nationalities who call the UAE their second home.”

Quoting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said Indian expats are the permanent ambassadors of their country while career diplomats are the temporary ambassadors.

Diwali now a global festival

Pointing out that Diwali is the largest Indian festival, he said it is celebrated globally in close to 10 countries including Malaysia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji and others

“In New York, it has recently been announced as a school holiday. It is celebrated in the White House in Washington. It is celebrated in 10, Downing Street, and all across the globe, reflecting the strength of the Indian community in different parts of the world, and also very importantly, reflecting how different countries respect multiculturalism and allow expats and immigrants to be able to celebrate the festivals, to be able to share what they bring to the table to add to the diversity and to allow them to enrich their adopted countries,” Dr Puri added.

Ties beyond diplomacy

Two prominent members of the Emirati community spoke about how Indo-UAE ties go beyond the corridors of diplomacy. Mirza Al Sayegh, who was the UAE’s first diplomat to India, recollected Diwali celebrations prior to the formation of the Union wherein former Dubai Ruler the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum visited the houses of the earliest Indian expat families of Dubai. He said those celebrations brought the people and cultures of both the countries together.

Al Saygh said that the UAE was keen to establish strong diplomatic relations with India from the very beginning and did the same with many other countries.

“Our diplomats today play a vital role. That’s why we have more than 190 missions abroad. And we have more than 190 missions here. These missions will bring the whole globe together,” he added.

Dr Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, the president of University of Dubai, said the UAE leaders were always looking for human capital. “Once you take care of the human beings, your diplomacy will work. And that is one of the reasons we have more than 200 nationalities in the country living safely.”

He also recounted the story of his childhood years spent in India and how he had learnt Hindi and English from there.

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Dr Puri (centre) with Dr Eesa Mohammed Bastaki to his right and Mirza Al Sayegh to his left, along with Emirati officials and foreign diplomats Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai perfect platform

Because of the very presence of the large number of foreign diplomatic missions in Dubai, many diplomats who attended the event felt Dubai is the perfect platform to celebrate the International Day of Diplomats.

Speaking to Gulf News, Consul General of Australia in Dubai, Ian Halliday, said: “It’s just fabulous to be able to come here today to help celebrate Diwali and help celebrate International Day of Diplomats.”

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Halliday, who is also the general manager of Australian Trade and Investment Commission (MEA and Pakistan), said diplomacy is all about creating connections, helping with global peace, economic development and growing people’s capabilities.

He said diplomats work very hard on behalf of their local citizens, and also for international trade, economics and global wellbeing. “So it’s fabulous to be able to have a day to celebrate international diplomats.”

Consul General of Afghanistan in Dubai, Masood Ahmad Azizi, said: “It is very important that we all get together and celebrate the diplomats. Their role is very huge and very important. A good diplomat can really prevent any conflict and also strengthen the relationships and even improve the partnerships in trade, and culture.”

Echoing the same, Consul General of Uzbekistan in Dubai, Alisher Salomov, said diplomats are the bridge between two countries. “We strive to build strong relationships in all spheres.”