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Speech by His Excellency Mr. Dinesh Bhatia, Ambassador of India at the First Ever Indian Community Meeting in Abidjan, on 10 October 2015

Posted on: October 10, 2015 | Back | Print

Good Afternoon, Namaskar

My dear Indian brothers and sisters in Cote d'Ivoire,

Let me first introduce my colleagues on the dais. Mr Doss Jeyakumar, who has arrived Abidjan only yesterday evening to join the Embassy as Second Secretary and Col Ajeet Baswan from Indian Army who is posted here as a Military Observer with the United Nation Operations in Cote d’Ivoire or popularly known as UNOCI. In fact, there are in all 9 Indian Army officers who are currently working with UNOCI as Military Observers. They are spread out in different parts of the country.

2.         I would like to also introduce my other Officers in the Embassy who are present here. Mr. Charles Toppo, Attache; Mr. H.S. Bisht, Attache; Mr. G. S. Joshi; Secretary to the Ambassador and Attache in the Mission; and Mr. Abhishek Kumar, the Assistant Consular Officer.

3.         At the outset, I wish to thank all of you for having taken out time today and joined us this afternoon to discuss an important matter that's of utmost concern to all of us keeping in mind the past events.

4.         It gives me a deep sense of happiness and pride to see the ever growing reach of the Indian Embassy with the Indians in CIV. I have been emphasizing that the Embassy's influence has significantly deepened not only with the Ivorian leadership but also within the Indian community in Cote d'Ivoire in the past year. It has been 1½ years for me and my family that we have been in Abidjan and our stay in Abidjan proves the old saying, “time flies”.

5.         Some Indians have been settled here for decades but as we can all see the ever growing Indian community with new faces from all walks of life on a daily basis. I welcome all new Indians here in Abidjan and wish them a fruitful and safe stay.

6.         This beautiful country, which I have always said is a blessed land, has seen over two decades of disturbance and nearly a decade of violent struggle pushing the country back in terms of economic and social indicators. Many of you have been witness to it. Many of you have seen all this culminating into a full blown civil war in 2011, killing nearly 3,000 people. The situation since then has changed in a big way and I would like to share with you some facts which emanate from the changed scenario and affect all of us here in Abidjan.

7.         Since April 2011, Cote d’Ivoire has seen peaceful days with a stable Government, spanning about 4½ years. This peace and stability bore the desired fruits for Cote d’Ivoire by way of imparting confidence in the international community which responded with assistance and investment thereby fuelling the economy. The economy of Cote d'Ivoire has grown at an extraordinary rate of 9% in the last 4 years. It is likely to continue if the peace and stability continues in the country.

8.         Besides various other results of his high growth rate, what is very important to all of us is that the Indian business in Cote d'Ivoire has grown exponentially. The natural corollary of which is that the Indian community in Cote d'Ivoire which was less than 500 till 2011 has jumped several folds and today it is estimated to be over 1500 including women and children.

9.         Cote d'Ivoire’s growth story is acquiring renewed importance in the global affairs and has certainly caught the attention of India. Indian assistance for infrastructure projects in Cote d’Ivoire by way of soft loans today stands at over US$ 136 million with another credit for US$ 102 million already approved. The ITEC training slots under which India provides fully paid scholarships to Cote d’Ivoire for capacity building, have gone up from 45 in 2010-11 to 80 this year 2015-16. India is also among the largest Foreign Direct Investors in Cote d’Ivoire.

10.      With all this in the background, you are well aware that the country is heading towards the next Presidential elections scheduled on 25 October for which the official campaign has been launched yesterday. My dear Indians, I would not like to comment on the internal politics of the country as it is the stated policy of Government of India not to interfere in the internal affairs of any country, whichsoever.

11.      However, as the Ambassador of India to Côte d'Ivoire, I am responsible and concerned about the safety and security of Indian citizens in Cote d'Ivoire. Going by the events of the past it makes sense to understand the present situation. In my capacity as the ambassador of India, I have been meeting officials in significant positions and Ministers to have a deep and true knowledge of future events and possible scenarios and keeping a close watch on the evolving situation prior to the election. I also had the privilege of personally discussing with Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire.

12.      I am also in close contact with my other diplomatic colleagues and have been exchanging regular notes with them on the process of elections. I would like to assure all those present and those who are not that the leadership of Cote d'Ivoire at the highest level have reassured me that all necessary steps have been taken to ensure peaceful elections.

13.      I would not like to enumerate my several meetings with the leadership and with the diplomatic corps, but it would be suffice to say that all indications seem rather positive. In spite of such pointers, I have made particular requests to the Government of Cote d’Ivoire for safety and security of Indians in the country. My requests have been taken in by the Government in the right earnestness.

14.      I wish to take this opportunity today to reassure Indian citizens in Cote d’Ivoire that I and my Embassy stand with you. As you might be aware that India is hosting the India Africa Forum Summit from 26-30 October. Nearly 40 Heads of States and Governments from Africa will be in Delhi in that week to hold discussions with Prime Minister Modi. The Indian Ambassadors in Africa have been advised to be in Delhi during this period. Therefore, I shall be away to Delhi from 20 October till 1 November. However, my family continues to stay in Abidjan during this period.

15.      I do not want to be an alarmist but it is always best to be on the side of caution. I would, therefore, suggest that we keep ourselves in a state of preparedness for any eventuality. My suggestion is that due precautions may be undertaken by all of us while undertaking movements in the city of Abidjan and especially when we are moving outside the city towards countryside. Enough supplies of food and water to last you for about a week may be stocked up, just before the elections. A word of caution is that any kind of rumour-mongering may be avoided and dissuaded.

16.      While I will be away, I would like that the Indians living in particular areas of Abidjan and possibly in other major cities, may like to connect through whatsapps or email groups to disseminate any information or advisory that may come up. I would also like to nominate Area Coordinators in Abidjan and form a whatsapps group with them which would include my officers from the Embassy so that we could reach out to all the Indians here.

17.      The Embassy already has over 700 email addresses of Indians. These are the ones who are registered with us since 2013. My humble request once again to all Indians is that everyone should register with the Embassy immediately, preferably before the elections so that we have a clear idea on number of Indians living in Cote d’Ivoire. This would also help us in disseminate our advisories. The form for registration is available on Embassy’s website www.eoiabidjan.org. Any Indian who was registered with the Embassy prior to 2013, should re-register.

18.      If there are any questions or suggestions in specific, I would be happy to respond to the best of my ability.

Thank you. Dhanyavad. Jai Hind.