Abrilliant career diplomat, a much honored multilingual prolific writer and a celebrity in his own right, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Mulay aroused a lot of expectations in USA even as his name surfaced as the Consul General of India in New York to succeed Mr. Prabhu Dayal early this year. Mr. Mulay was held back in Maldives where, as India’s High Commissioner, his presence was required to deal with a sensitive diplomatic situation in that country.
The Indian American community, meanwhile, expectantly waited for him to arrive. And when Mr. Mulay came, he conquered the hearts of the Indian American community who have great admiration for his scholarship and friendly disposition towards the community. His reputation as an astute diplomat, a great writer and a perfect gentleman also helped in ready generation of admiration and warmth for him.
At all the events that he went to he emphasized that he would work to “communicate more and better” and create “goodwill within the Indian American community and with local government”- views that endeared him further to the Indian American community in just a few weeks and a couple of appearances at social events. The Indian Panorama earlier this month spoke with Mr. Mulay to know his thoughts and views on a number of issues of importance to the Indian American community , India and USA.Mr. Mulay was extremely candid and forthcoming.
Here are some excerpts from the interview. You are a prolific writer in at least three languages- Marathi, Hindi and English. I believe you have written around 15 books. Some of these have been translated in to many other languages. What are the subjects you like to write on? When did you start writing? And how has Foreign Service contributed to your writing prowess?
Ans. I started writing much before I joined the Foreign Service. But Service broadened the horizon. Foreign service has provided me immense opportunity to look at various aspects of life in different milieu and environs. As a diplomat the opportunity we get to create the bridges is immense. I think we have a unique opportunity in the Foreign Service as a diplomat to reach out.
It gave me immense amount of raw material, mines and mines of gold mines to write about. As a diplomat the canvass we get is huge. That way Foreign Service really enriches you. How you want to use that knowledge is up to an individual. I personally feel my observations as of today are important which must be shared with others. You can wait up to retirement to write. I write basically in all forms. Short prose, like essays.
Long prose. Poetry. I have been writing columns also. When I write a column I take precaution not to write on a political or sensitive issue because I am in the Service. My intention is not to sensationalize but to inform and pass on the knowledge which I obtain as a privileged member of the Indian Foreign Service. There are enough topics and material outside politics to write about. There is a variety of people to write about.
You have been here for some time now and have had the opportunity to come in contact and interact with a cross section of Indian American community. What is your impression of the Indian American community here?
Ans. I must say, first, the community is fairly large in number which is really a positive thing because numbers are strength. Two, it has tremendous talent. Number three, it is hugely diversified. Even though Indians are known to be good in certain areas like academia and IT but they are seen across the board.
I have seen them working with New York government, in City administration, in small businesses and various other professions. I have seen them involving themselves in interesting charity and promotional work. It is the number, the vibrancy, the quality and the diversity of the Indian American community that fascinates me. The community has contributed hugely. It contributed to the inking of the Indo-US Nuclear agreement.
It has successfully lobbied for India and also for the United States. It has bridged communication gap between the two countries and successfully built bridges between the two countries. But I still feel there is a huge untapped energy within the diaspora which remains to be explored and exploited in the interest both of India and US; and in the end, to bridge the two countries and to make the relationship between the two more substantial. Since 1992 when the liberalization program started, there has been a kind of awakening among the diaspora.
Indians abroad felt a new era has dawned and they began reconnecting with India and returning to the fold. More and more from the diaspora got involved. Realizing the importance of the vast diaspora, government of India in 2004 formed a separate ministry to address the issues of the diaspora. I must say the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has done commendably well in a short span of time. It has brought the diaspora together. It has introduced a number of welfare measures, in particular for workers and women.
Introduction of OCI and PIO cards are good examples of the right step in the right direction of attracting diaspora back in to fold. All this has created momentum for the next level- a much higher level of cooperation between India and US. Time has come when the two countries need upgrade their cooperation to a higher level in various fields like, transfer of knowledge, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food processing, automobiles, etc. India needs new technologies in agriculture, food processing and various other sectors. Involvement of diaspora will certainly be helpful. I would emphasize equal opportunity for the diaspora to promote in US the traditional Indian technology, for example, in the field of healthcare, of which yoga, ayurveda and naturopathy are parts.
Some organizations have submitted memoranda outlining the irritating issues, including the one relating to OCI cards. What is your comment on their concerns?
Ans. Let me explain. Decision making is in the hands of New Delhi. We have forwarded the concern of diaspora. The issues raised concern various ministries. Ministry of Home Affairs, Law ministry and Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs- all are involved in certain matters. It does sometime cause delays and at times, the procedures recommended prove to be cumbersome. However, the concern is to have a process that does not trouble people. I recognize the inconvenience caused with regard to certain procedures required for the OCI card.
I have conveyed the concern of the diaspora and we are awaiting a response. I cannot give a time frame though. However, it will be wrong to presume that all problems perceived by the community will be solved. We work within parameters not necessarily set by us. I would like to be communicative. I would like to communicate more and communicate better with the community. I would bring in more efficiency, more transparency and communicate with the community so that the community knows we are working for it. I will have empathy for the community and a desire to solve its problems. There you will not find us wanting.
How about communicating with various religious and community groups with a view to combating any false propaganda against India?
Ans.As a representative of Government of India, it is my duty to promote peace and harmony. I will encourage dialogue to that end. We have to give a sense of belonging to everybody.
How about having a periodic dialogue with media?
Ans.We can do that. I would like to be communicative with each stakeholder.
Are you going to allow use of Consulate premises for promotion of personal business?
Ans.When it comes to selling wares by a businessman, no. We do not promote personal business. However, we have a promotional role when it comes to helping Indian businesses in USA. Economic diplomacy is as important as political diplomacy. In fact, it has become more important. We cannot be blind to this fact. We will promote exchange of knowledge, thoughts and ideas between Indian and US businesses. Ultimately, we have to reach out to the American society.
Will you allow the use of Consulate premises for community events?
Ans. Yes. Community events when India promotion is involved are welcome.
Have you established any contact with local government?
Ans. I am trying to work out issues and concerns. Once, it has been done I will get in touch with the concerned authorities. The idea is to bring substance to relationship. Promotion of interests and creating goodwill among communities is possible only through the power of communication and we will establish good working relationship with local government.
What is your message to the Indian American community?
Ans.We value the role you are playing both for India and USA and for the Indian American community here. The way you are living as a peaceful community in this country is commendable and does proud to India and Indians. But I feel there is a large untapped energy which needs to be explored and put to the right use. What we should have in mind is our community should live in peace and harmony. What we should have in mind is the relationship between India and USA should grow stronger. Consulate of India will be happy to take this cooperation between the two countries to a higher level.