Thursday, October 28, 2021

India / Botswana diplomatic tensions flare into open

An alleged diplomatic tension between Botswana and India which has been simmering behind the scenes boiled over recently with the latter threatening to recall its High Commissioner toBotswana, Dr Ketan Shukla.

According to Indian media, this was after complaints made by the Botswana Government alleging what falls short of a racial slur. Shukla is said to have described Botswana ministers as monkeys in addition to other comments made by the envoy that have rubbed the host country the wrong way.

The Indian embassy this week refused to comment on the allegations while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had not responded to Sunday Standard queries at the time of going to press. 

The Indian publication, News Mobile quoted highly placed sources that Dr Ketan Shukla, has been asked to come back and report to that country’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) headquarters after the Botswana government complained to India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who ordered the recall of the Envoy.

The publication further quoted sources as saying that Dr Shukla claimed that he has been made a victim as he had taken a tough stand on some demands made by the host government.

A medical doctor by training, Shukla recently slammed Botswana’s health system describing it as weak as it is unable to provide drugs to patients when they are required.

Speaking at the official launch of the Botswana Cataract Blindness Campaign at Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole recently, Shukla said “Supply chain management systems at all hospitals and clinics are weak leading to erratic availability as well as shortage of essential drugs.”

He also expressed concern at what he called shortage of trained and qualified staff saying it remains one of the major bottlenecks towards the availability of quality health care in Botswana.

Shukla holds an MBBS Degree from N.H.L. Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.  He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1986 and has served in various capacities at Indian Missions at Lisbon, Brasilia and Berlin. He served as Charge d’Affaires (a.i) at Belgrade. He served as Deputy Chief of Mission at Thimphu and as Deputy High Commissioner at Nairobi. During his stint  at MEA Headquarters, he served as Under Secretary, SAARC (1992-1993), Under Secretary, Bhutan (1993-94), Deputy Secretary, ITEC (1996-1997), Deputy Secretary, ITP (1997-1999), Director, WANA (2001-2002) and Joint Secretary, Haj and A&RM (2014-16).

He also served as Deputy High Commissioner and Deputy Permanent Representative to UN-HABITAT and UNEP, Kenya.

He has also worked on deputation to the Ministry of Defence and as Secretary, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, Government of Gujarat. A close ally of India’s Prime Minister, he was the member of the Committee constituted for the examination and recommendation on the proposed amendment in the Electricity Act, 2003.

Reports further indicate that in 2015 India had recalled its Envoy to New Zealand and the decision stems from a zero tolerance policy in these cases adopted by the Modi government. Sources say over 40 cases of misbehaviour and unprofessional conduct by officials in Indian mission is being probed by the Ministry of External Affairs.

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