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Interview: H.E. Mr. Sugandh Rajaram, High Commissioner of India to Ghana

24 August, 2020, 12:00 427 Views 0 Comment

MEET THE HIGH COMMISSIONER

Mr. Sugandh Rajaram entered into Indian Foreign Service in 2001. He began his diplomatic career at the Indian Mission in Moscow (2003-2006). Later, he served in the Indian Diplomatic Missions in Jakarta (2008-2011) and in New York (2011-2014). He also served at the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi dealing with India’s relations with Sri Lanka (2006-2008) and Pakistan (20015-2016) and with External Publicity & Public Diplomacy (2016). Most recently he was the Consul General of India in Munich (2016-2019). Mr. Rajaram is the High Commissioner of India to Ghana since January 2020. Mr. Sugandh Rajaram is an electronics engineer by education. Among foreign languages, he speaks Russian and also knows Bahasa Indonesia and German. He is married to Mrs. Pratibha Parkar, presently Ambassador of India to Angola and the couple has a daughter.

Q. High Commissioner, you have held several prestigious positions – representing India since 2003. Share your experience on being appointed as the Indian High Commissioner to Ghana.

I feel that this responsibility is a great opportunity to work towards strengthening already close bilateral ties between India and Ghana. In the last six months that I am here, I have sensed immense possibilities in this regard. Though the last four months have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hopeful to recover the momentum in the bilateral relations soon.

Q. How do you see India-Ghana ties, going forward in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic? What types of initiatives are you planning to build with Ghana when this crisis is over? 

India has been a committed partner of Ghana in its developmental journey. Especially, when the pandemic has hit the world, this committed partnership of India towards Ghana has a special meaning to work together towards mitigating the effects of the pandemic and regain the strength.  During the pandemic, India allowed the export of necessary drugs to Ghana. Several Indian companies have been supplying PPEs and other materials to Ghana. The Indian community in Ghana, including the businesses, rose to the occasion and contributed substantially towards the mitigation efforts in the country. When we are slowly coming out of the crisis, India is looking forward to work with Ghana to substantially upgrade its health care infrastructure, support its small and medium entrepreneurs and facilitate efforts for agriculture and rural development.  India has a lot to offer and contribute towards SME development in Ghana, specially when it comes to agro-processing. We are also looking forward to undertaking several developmental projects, especially, in the fields of water, irrigation, sanitation, renewable energy and agri-mechanisation.

Q. What do you think is the biggest learning experience from the pandemic?

The pandemic has highlighted the need to ensure the sustainability of growth and development. There is a need for a renewed focus on the healthcare sector. A strong and healthy society would ensure survival during such a crisis in the future. Hence, there is a need to coordinate and multiply global efforts, within and between countries, both at the government and non-government level, to work in this direction.

Q. With a growing international influence, India is starting to exhibit a prominent voice when it comes to matters and affairs on global levels. How would you reflect on India’s foreign affairs strategy?

At the global level, India has already risen and has taken its position with due responsibility at the global table.  India is now going to be in the UNSC for the next two years and will be playing a crucial role in providing a new orientation for reforming the multilateral system. Bilaterally, India has substantially increased its presence around the world, specially in Africa.

Q. The Indian Mission in Accra, Ghana is concurrently accredited to Sierra Leone and Togo. How India is committed to deepening trade relations with these countries?

Currently, our Mission in Ghana is concurrently accredited to Togo and Sierra Leone.  With both these countries, we have strong ties in all spheres. The trade with them has increased substantially over the years. India is committed to strengthen it by diversifying the trade basket. We are looking forward to expand the trade relations by facilitating increased market access for Indian goods in these countries and promote Indian investments there, especially, in small-medium sectors and agri-rural development.

Q.  Ghana is one of India’s important partners in West Africa. With regards to future economic engagements, what key areas would you like to see India using its expertise in Ghana so that the two countries enjoy mutual benefits?

India-Ghana bilateral engagement has the possibility to expand to all areas including political, economic, socio-cultural, education and security. The relations in all these spheres are already intense. When I look to the future, I may underline the fact that both countries are actively working towards building strong people-to-people relations. India’s expertise is in its young people, skilled people, small and medium entrepreneurs and technologists. I see that with increased people-to-people ties in the future, possible integration of these expertise will open new vistas for the future expansion of Indo-Ghana relations, strengthening further the bond between the two countries.

Q. What do you think makes India attractive?

In Ghana, for that matter for the whole of Africa, India is the most ‘relevant’ country outside of the continent. This relevance is in terms of the people, the society and its approach, the skills, the resources, the possibilities and the challenges. This ‘sameness’ is the attraction for Africa and Ghana, for India. The people here feel comfortable working with India. India’s approach towards Africa is not to exploit its resources but to build the capacity of the Africans to exploit the resources for themselves. The spirit of South-South cooperation can achieve its full potential when India and Africa work together. The education in India, the health facilities in India, the technologies from India are not only relevant but also appropriate for the growth and development of Africa and I think this makes India attractive in Ghana and the whole of Africa.

Q. What plans and strategies you have made to bridge the knowledge gap between the two countries?

In our efforts to bring the people of India and Ghana together, we have planned a strong outreach component in all our activities. Meaningful, focused and substantial efforts to reach out to all segments of the Ghanaian society are key to bridge the gap between the minds and thoughts of the people of our two countries. In this regard, we are launching a business forum for all the stakeholders to get together and discuss various issues in strengthening the economic relations. In addition, we will be launching a community platform where the strong presence of the Indian diaspora could be leveraged in our objective of bringing our two countries together at the people’s level. A policy dialogue will also be launched to keep Ghanaian people especially the policymakers, authorities, media, academics and think-tanks, well informed on the developments in India.

Q. SMEs play a vital role in developing a nation, and both India and Ghana are characterised by a large amount of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). How do you ensure a strong SME sector relationship with Ghana?

Small and medium businesses are the strength of the economy of any country, be it India or Ghana. This is especially true when we have societies which are mainly agricultural and rural.  In order to ensure the contribution of such sectors of the society towards nation-building, growth and development of the country, there is a need to facilitate the small and medium businesses to disperse to rural and agricultural areas and activities. Indian SMEs, who have got wide exposure and expertise in this regard, have a lot to offer to the immense need for such development in Ghana. There exists a huge synergy in the SME development, particularly in the agri and rural sector, between our two countries.We are planning to work towards putting the relevant stakeholders both in India and Ghana in close touch by way of arranging webinars, visits, exhibitions, demonstrations of technologies, etc., to ensure close and strong SME sector relationship between India and Ghana. Ghana has also got huge exposure of our concessional credit, the projects under which are mainly in the SME sector. Thus the SME sector will be promoted and facilitated to leverage our credit assistance to Ghana.

Q. How fruitful is the solar energy businesses in Ghana for the Indian companies?

Renewable energy, specially solar energy development has tremendous opportunities in Ghana as the pace of economic activity, specially the industrialization, picks up in the country. Ghana is endowed with one of the best opportunities to develop its solar energy sector. It has joined the International Solar Alliance and is going to reap the benefits out of its association with ISA where we have extended concessional credit lines in the solar energy projects in Ghana. Several Indian companies are already working on the electrification of airports, street lighting, irrigation and water supply, etc., based on solar energy. I see a bright future for the solar-based renewable energy business opportunities for Indian companies in Ghana.

Kanchi Batra
Kanchi Batra
Kanchi Batra is the Business Editor of The Diplomatist.
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