“I don’t think it is in the pail of diplomatic decency to personally attack a resident High Commissioner.”
That was the curt response from Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statements about his role in the current diplomatic discord between the two countries over COVID-19 vaccines.
In a text message exchange with Guardian Media yesterday, Rowley said a difficult situation has been created by the High Commissioner and that it was compounded by Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
But Sahu, a 25-year career diplomat, fought back yesterday, saying while his short response was all he was willing to say now, he would say more on the issue next week.
Sahu told Guardian Media this was his first posting in the Caribbean and he did not want to get drawn into politics. Although he did not want to say more on the issue, he again slammed a newspaper editorial from two weeks ago that was highly critical of the Indian government. He said he believes the T&Ts Government should have publicly distanced itself from the editorial.
Sahu also confirmed he had not spoken to Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne on this issue of vaccines from India.
The Indian High Commissioner hosted former prime minister Basdeo Panday at “Memories of India: A time capsule of memories” at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Cooperation in Mt Hope yesterday.
Panday tried to walk the diplomatic line when asked about the rift between the Government and Sahu over the COVID-19 vaccines.
While Panday said he would rather not speak on the issue because he was not apprised of the details, he first directed questions to Sahu.
“People believe that there are racial overtones or undertones in this COVID virus thing and I don’t know. I don’t know the facts and I really ought not to comment,” Panday said at first.
“Protocol demands that the High Commissioner of a country does not fight with the country and so on. I imagine how difficult a position he must be in.”
When asked what he would have done if he were Prime Minister now, Panday said he would have done things differently.
“First thing I would do is make sure I got information about the vaccine and if we were getting some free,” he said.
He said he would also have found out if the country would have gotten some free if it placed an order for more.
“But, I don’t know what the facts are. Someone asked me what I thought about the Government rejecting the Indian vaccine and the only thing that could come to my mind is that India would have more to vaccinate its own people and so save more lives,” Panday said.
The Government has maintained that it never rejected the Indian-made vaccine and has made a request to purchase the vaccines from the Serum Institute in India, which is manufacturing the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine currently in use around the world.
That same vaccine is part of the COVAX facility and is also part of the vaccines being distributed by the African Medical Supplies.