Ambassador Khanduja focusses on diversifying India-Zimbabwe cooperation

Ambassador Khanduja focusses on diversifying India-Zimbabwe  cooperation
February 23 16:39 2022

In this week’s instalment of the Diplomat Couch, we publish excerpts of Diplomat Magazine Editor, Reginald Chapfunga’s interview with the Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E Mr Vijay Khanduja on India-Zimbabwe relations.

Ambassador Vijay Khanduja was posted to Zimbabwe in November 2020. Prior to his current assignment he was serving as Director (UN Economic and Social) in the Ministry of Affairs, New Delhi. He has also served in various capacities at the Indian embassies in China, Pakistan, France, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

How are the bilateral relations between India and Zimbabwe?

India and Zimbabwe share a very friendly and broad-based relationship. Our two countries are cooperating in a wide range of areas like health, power, drinking water, agriculture, education and mining to mention a few. In the health sector, we provided Zimbabwe medicines worth US$ 1 million in 2020. This was followed by gifting of ambulances and 75 000 Covaxin vaccines, made-in-India, in 2021.

The Government of India also extended lines of credit for the refurbishment of Hwange and Bulawayo Thermal Power Stations as also for Deka Water Pumping Station. India, through India-UN Development Partnership Fund, has extended assistance of US$ 1 million for climate-resilient agriculture in the districts of Chiredzi and Mangwe.

There are an estimated 3 000 Zimbabwean students studying in India. There is also a robust presence of Indian companies in the food-processing and mining sectors, among others.

Indian companies and businesses have shown so much interest in investing in Zimbabwe, are there big projects coming? Any major Indian investments in Zimbabwe over the last decade?

We have had two multi-sectoral business delegations visit Zimbabwe from India Economic Trade Organization [IETO] in 2021, braving the pandemic. During the first visit in May 2021, they signed 19 MOUs with the counterpart organizations in the fields of agriculture, mining, textiles, tourism, film-making etc. These are private sector driven initiatives. Indian companies such as Varun Beverages, Pure Oil, Surface Wilmar, Raha Industries, Splash Paints and Polyvision are some of the well-known names in Zimbabwe. We hope to see more Indian companies look at Zimbabwe as an investment destination.

India has a booming arts and culture industry especially film and television, are there any cultural exchange programs or collaborations between India and Zimbabwe?

We have held celebration of Namaste Zimbabwe Festival as part of [email protected] / Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav in the month of November 2021 and at which cultural troupes from India participated. They performed classical Kathak dance [Saumya Shukla], Manipuri dance [Ibudhou Loyalakpa Group] and classical vocal / sufi [Pandit Dhananjay Kaul and associates].

We also have a pool of local talent too like Glendale Mudzimu who performed Bharatnatyam classical dance at the festival. Indian movies and TV serials are very popular in Zimbabwe.

Troupes from Zimbabwe have also been participating at the Surajkund Craft Mela. Unfortunately, this has not been held for the last couple of years. We expect these exchanges to continue as life becomes more normal. We also hope to have more structured interaction in the area of film making given that an MOU in this field was signed during the visit of Indian delegation in May 2021.

Many Zimbabweans visit India each year. What are some of their popular reasons to visit India?

India offers a very wide variety of tourist destinations, be it beaches, hill stations, monuments, temples and churches, forts, palaces, and many of these are part of the UNESCO World Heritages Sites list. India also provides a very affordable tourist destination. One can combine tourism with relaxation and therapy, for example Ayurveda or even traditional medicine. Of course, one can also visit India for a wide variety of taste-bud tantalizing food.

What is your general impressions of Zimbabwe and which areas are you going to focus on during your tenure?

Zimbabwe is a very welcoming country. I am glad to be posted here to represent India and to take the relationship forward. The work on Deka Water Pumping Station has already started and my focus would be to make sure that all the lines of credit are made operational at an early date. I would also like the trade and economic relationship to diversify, including in the fields of agriculture, alternate healthcare and automotive sector. At present, some of the products are being traded through third countries which does not project the correct picture. I would also like more people to people contact through more educational exchanges and scholarships.

Your social life in Zimbabwe: people you network with, tourism destinations you have visited, favourite restaurants or artists etc.

I have, of course, visited the Victoria Falls, Nyanga and Bulawayo. The natural beauty in Zimbabwe is breath-taking. As for my social life, well it is pretty good and I keep myself occupied. I start the day with an online yoga session. Through your medium, I would request everyone to take advantage of the same.

The details can be seen on the social media handles of the Embassy. For the food part, I am a vegetarian and a simple eater. Apart from Indian restaurants, I find that good vegetarian food is available at almost every hotel I have stayed or the restaurant I have visited. Among other many artists, I also like the music of the late Oliver Mtukudzi and Ms. Hope Masike.

               

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