The High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar on the occasion of the 74th Independence Day of India, conveyed his greetings to members of the Indian community, overseas citizens of India and friends of India in Brunei Darussalam.
“I would like to convey my greetings and felicitations to members of the Indian diaspora in Brunei Darussalam and to urge everyone to continue to work with dedication to further enhancing India-Brunei relations. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for His Majesty’s visionary leadership, especially during the pandemic and in strengthening our bilateral relations. I extend my best wishes to His Majesty, members of the royal family and the friendly and peace-loving people of Brunei Darussalam for their continued good health and prosperity,” he said in his message.
“This year, the attention of the world has been occupied in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. India too has been confronting the adverse effects of the pandemic. To control the spread of the virus among India’s large population and also to prepare necessary health infrastructure to deal with the pandemic, India announced four phases of lockdown over the period from March 25 to May 31. Thereafter, India announced three phases of unlock starting from June 1. While the number of those infected increased recently due to increased testing, the recovery rate is 74 per cent and mortality rate is at 1.98 per cent.
“Just as in many countries of the world, including Brunei Darussalam, the Government of India announced economic stimulus packages and sectoral incentives to assist businesses. The package was to the tune of USD22 billion and included inter-alia loans, moratorium on debt repayments, relief for MSMEs, free and direct distribution of food supplies and financial assistance to the poor and vulnerable sections of the population, providing employment to displaced labour force through government schemes, easing regulations across sectors and increasing financial liquidity in the market.
“The Government of India arranged for the travel of the immigrant labour to return to their hometowns through special trains and other means. The government has also been arranging the return of stranded Indians abroad through non-scheduled commercial flights under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) initiative. The return of over one million stranded Indians were facilitated under VBM, which also transported over 150,000 Indians to return abroad from India. From Brunei too, the High Commission of India, with the assistance of the Indian community associations, organised two chartered flights operated by Royal Brunei Airlines to carry 270 stranded Indian nationals to Coimbatore in July.
“The COVID-19 pandemic also provided India and the world with opportunities to adapt to new realities. In this regard, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a clarion call for India to be Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) to overcome excessive dependence on supply chains located abroad by setting-up within India. The initiative to work towards self-reliance is based on the growth of the economy and infrastructure, driven by technology while exploiting India’s vibrant demography and the strength of its vast demand. Special focus has been laid on agriculture, agri-business, rural and urban development, digitalisation and innovation.
“At the bilateral level, India and Brunei made steady progress over the years. Our areas of cooperation have been guided by mechanisms such as Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting and the Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) which were held in September 2018 and June 2019. While Brunei plays an important role in ensuring India’s energy security through its export of crude oil to India, India’s exports to Brunei include automotive, machinery, frozen bovine meat, rice, etc. Both countries have also identified cooperation in the areas of agriculture, education, ICT, science and technology and healthcare and are progressing towards their implementation.
“It comes as no surprise that Brunei has been ranked very high in its dealing of the COVID-19 pandemic by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia. This was possible under the able and wise leadership of His Majesty, the excellent management of the pandemic through appropriate and timely measures taken by the Bruniean Cabinet and senior officials, the professionalism of the healthcare workers and the general awareness among the public.”