Ms. Ann Aquilina
Ms. Ann Aquilina

'Today, Indians are Much More Sophisticated'

Ms. Ann Aquilina, wife of John Aquilina, High Commissioner of Malta to India and Ambassador-designate to Nepal, has been elected as the President of the Association of the Spouses of the Heads of Missions in New Delhi, India, for 2015. In an interview with the Diplomatist’s Editor-at-Large Alankar Srivastava, she emphasised upon the significance of cultural diplomacy in international relations and sheds light on the gamut of social activities that the Association indulges in.

Q. What does cultural diplomacy mean to you?

A. Cultural diplomacy is about more and more communication. With the level of education rising, it is not acceptable to be disrespectful to others. Since the world is facing the scourge of terrorism, it is important to know, understand and accept different culture.

Q. What, according to you, are the various instruments of cultural diplomacy?

A. The heart of cultural diplomacy is to promote understanding among people who come from different backgrounds and hold different values, through the medium of culture. It is recognised as an important tool of foreign policy in promoting international links among people and countries. Art, theatre, films, music, drama, etc are the various instruments of cultural diplomacy.

Q. The life of the spouse of a High Commissioner or an Ambassador can often be a difficult and lonely experience. How far the New Delhi Spouses of the Heads of Mission Association with a history dating back to 1922 been successful in bridging the gap of isolation that may exist?

A. We all come from different cultural background, so the Association realises the importance of respecting differences. The Association inculcates the spirit of cooperation, and apprise members of the topical issues pertaining to the nation. With plenty to discuss, we take the best course as a group.

Q. Enlighten us on the role and responsibilities of the President of the New Delhi Spouses of the Heads of Mission Association.

A. Keeping the Association together and everyone in the loop is the primary role. The President must engage all the members and send diaries of the upcoming events. Touching base with members who are unwell is also part of the job.

Q. Since you been to India before, what are the changes that you have observed in the country over the years?

A. I visited India 25 years back, and stayed in the beautiful state of Kashmir. I must say India has changed a lot. Indians are much more sophisticated and articulate, thanks to their command over English. Technology is changing the entire landscape; ambassadors have given way to luxury cars. And yes, women have stopped wearing sarees!

Q. Please take us through the gamut of social activities that the Association indulges in so as to improve cultural interaction, as well as the historical understanding and appreciation of the city and country in which the spouses are living.

A. Although we come from privileged background, relocating with teenaged children can be very challenging. The New Delhi Spouses of the Heads of Mission Association acts as a social and support network. The Association also works for social causes by engaging in charity and fund-raising events.

Q. Does your experience as a photojournalist help in discharging your duties as the President of the New Delhi Spouses of the Heads of Mission Association?

A. It definitely does. I have been involved with writing in clubs, and played a crucial role in the management. Moreover, it helps a lot if you can communicate well, which I owe to my career as a photojournalist.

Q. Please tell us about some of your favourite places around Delhi.

A. EVERYTHING! Delhi is fascinating and fabulous. Everywhere you look, there is something wonderful to see and so much to explore. The art galleries here in Delhi frequently host amazing exhibitions of both traditional and modern Indian art.

Restaurants: Sunday brunch at the Leela Palace is always special. It was our first outing and we meet some great people that day. Tikli Bottom is also fabulous for lunch if you want to get out of the city. And, dinner with friends at Diva, GK 2, M Block is always something that is on my radar.

Shopping: Old Delhi/Chandni Chowk - I love exploring the lanes and alley ways of Old Delhi and often go to the spice market for supplies. I frequently buy things here that I do NOT need!

Sharpur Jat & Haus Khaus Village - Both are fabulous for young designer clothes and jewellery, plus heaps of great cafes.

Sunder Nagar - For high quality, traditional style Indian crafts and antiques. La Boutique is a favourite, and I recommend it to all our visitors.

MG Road, Sultanpur - The Home of the Traveller always has interesting items as do most of the nearby stores.

Finally, Lado Sarai for art galleries - just wonderful!

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.