Further strengthening bonds of friendship

Danial Norjidi

India will continue working closely with Brunei Darussalam to further strengthen and consolidate the existing bonds of friendship between the two countries. The government of India also extends its full support to Brunei as the 2021 Chair of ASEAN.

High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar said this in a message on the occasion of the 72nd Republic Day of India, which falls today.

“Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it enjoyed the true spirit of Independence on January 26, 1950 when the Constitution of India finally came into force,” shared the high commissioner.

He noted that since then, India has overcome numerous challenges and roadblocks to earn global recognition, highlighting that the country has come a long way, “leaving behind a string of landmarks that define its journey from the agony of partition to a strong, powerful and developing nation”.

The high commissioner said, “In the last two decades, while reinforcing its democratic and secular credentials, India has made many great strides in ensuring the economic and social well-being of its people and contributing to the global peace, security and prosperity. India’s economic growth has been steady save for 2020. The nation has made many exemplary achievements in diverse fields, including bio-technology, agriculture and food processing, thereby ensuring food security. India has also excelled in the frontier areas of technology including in defence production, space, information technology, pharmaceuticals and healthcare and service industry.”

Traditional folk dancers of Gujarat perform during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day Parade in Chennai. PHOTO: AFP
High Commissioner of India to Brunei Darussalam Ajaneesh Kumar. PHOTO: HIGH COMMISSION OF INDIA IN BRUNEI DARUSSALAM

The high commissioner highlighted that India’s relations with ASEAN have emerged as a key cornerstone of the Indian foreign policy. Starting from 1992 when India became a dialogue partner of ASEAN, India’s relations with ASEAN has intensified and expanded manifold.

“The government of India extends its full support to Brunei for the ASEAN Chairmanship under the theme ‘We Care, We Prepare, We Prosper’. This current year we are likely to see increased interaction, both at political and official levels, including Summit meetings to further consolidate this relationship,” he said.

“At the bilateral level, the high commission continued its engagements with Brunei to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship and cooperation. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic limited physical interactions for most of 2020, the two sides worked towards the fulfilment of the areas of cooperation identified during the 7th Foreign Office Consultations held in New Delhi in June 2019 and 1st Joint Trade Committee Meeting held in Bandar Seri Begawan in September 2018.”

The high commissioner mentioned some notable events, including the organisation of the 55th ITEC Day on October 11, 2019; hosting of a Lucknowi/Awadhi Food Festival on February 14-16, 2020; celebration of the 4th edition of the World Hindi Day on February 19, 2020 at Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) Primary School; and the hosting of the 6th International Day of Yoga (IDY) at India House as well as virtually on June 21, 2020.

Another was the celebration of Gandhi @150, which commenced on October 2, 2018 to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. As part the celebrations, the mission organised a series of events including tree planting; vegetarian food festivals; rendering of Vaishnava Jana To, a famous ecumenical hymn beloved of Mahatma Gandhi, by Fakhrul Razi; and a Student Solar Ambassador Workshop, Solar Urja through localisation for sustainability (SoULS).

“India has been offering various capacity building programmes to Brunei under its ITEC, e-ITEC, Space and Defence related training and Special Programmes for Foreign Diplomats from ASEAN member countries,” said the high commissioner. “In addition, a number of online training programmes have also been offered by organisations such as CII and FICCI.”

Two Bruneian nationals attended the 13th Special Professional Course for Foreign Diplomats from ASEAN member countries organised by Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, from October 14-26, 2019. A two-month training programme, ‘UNIspace Nanosatellite Assembly and Training’ (UNNATI Programme), organised by ISRO from October 15, 2019 to December 15, 2019, was attended by two Bruneian experts. Meanwhile, two Bruneian officials participated in an online training course on cybersecurity organised by CII on August 6-7, 2020. In addition, 14 officials of the Ministry of Development of Brunei participated in an online e-ITEC training programme organised by HSMI, HUDCO on October 19-21, 2020.

The high commission also participated in the one-year celebration of the Constitution Day of India starting November 26, 2019.

“As part of its social responsibility, the high commission conducted a free medical checkup for economically weaker members of the Indian community working in Brunei on December 8, 2019 with the support of Gleneagles JPMC and other volunteer doctors and nurses,” shared the high commissioner. He added that the high commission also organised the 15th and 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) 2020 on January 9, 2020 and 2021; participated in the Brunei Film Festival 2020; as well as the photo exhibition ‘Brunei Darussalam from the Eyes of Foreign Diplomats and their Families’ from December 2020 to February 2021.

He also shared that the ASEAN-India Hackathon, an initiative announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit, is being organised on February 1-3, 2021. The event offers unique opportunities to youngsters in all 10 ASEAN member countries to collaborate in diverse fields including education, science and technology. It also enables skilled individuals to develop cross country bonds and get acquainted with each other’s cultures, values and work ethics. Six students from Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) and two mentors will participate from Brunei.

“It will be our endeavour to continue working closely with the government and the people of Brunei to further strengthen and consolidate our relationship in the coming years. The approximately 10,000 Indian diaspora in Brunei has acted as a bridge of friendship. It will have an important role to play towards achieving this objective,” added the high commissioner.