The Island of Crocodiles – TIMOR-LESTE

By Ms. Elisa Maria Da Silva, Chargé d’affaires (A.I.) of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to the Kingdom of Thailand

A Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor, Timor-Leste, or East Timor is ringed by coral reefs teeming with marine life. It is bounded by the Timor Sea to the southeast, the Wetar Strait to the north, the Ombai Strait to the northwest, and western Timor (part of the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara) to the southwest

Timor-Leste shares land border with Indonesia and maritime border with Australia. Unilaterally, Timor-Leste declared its Independence from Portugal on 28 November 1975 but was invaded by neighbouring Indonesia nine days later. It will commemorate its 18th Anniversary of Restoration of independence from Indonesia on 20 May 2020.

BRIEF HISTORY OF TIMOR-LESTE

Timor-Leste is also known as the Island of crocodiles as the shape of the island is like the shape of a crocodile. Timorese people believe that crocodiles are lulik – ‘sacred’ and they are their ancestors – often with the term: ‘Grandfather Crocodile’. As per the traditional myth, the crocodile sacrifices itself to create the land of Timor Leste, the mountains are his spine, a home for the boy who had trusted him enough to ride his back to a new land. Killing a crocodile is culturally a taboo as well as illegal in the country.

TOURISM OPPORTUNITIES

Timor-Leste has rich flora and fauna. It is a beautiful island and has incredible natural beauty, rich history, and unique cultural experience. TimorLeste also has clean and stunning beaches, mesmerizing tropical reefs and amazing marine life, and rugged mountains.

As an intriguing new tourism destination, it has been attracting an increasing number of international travelers, who are keen to experience its coral reefs, beaches, rugged mountains and heritage. TimorLeste has 13 municipalities. Each municipality has its unique beauty or characteristics. So, each municipality has something special to offer to the travelers. There are some special and popular municipalities that tourist can visit such as:

ATAURO ISLAND

Atauro Island is part of Dili, the capital. It offers world class diving and snorkeling in its fantastic reefs. Recent research shows Atauro Island has the highest diversity of reef fishes and coral species on the earth. It is also perfect for beach relaxing, swimming and hiking. It gives very friendly, hospitable and welcoming vibes. Boat access from Dili can be easily arranged and good accommodation facilities including small eco-resorts are available here.

TOWN OF BALIBO

It has an old fort which provides expansive views of the surrounding country side. Within the fort is a boutique hotel and restaurant. Guided visits to local villages and caves can be organized here.

MOUNTAINS OF RAMELAU & HATO BUILICO

A highlight for many of a holiday in Timor-Leste is a guided hike from the village of Hato Builico, located high in the Tatamailau range (2000m), to the summit of Mt Ramelau to watch the sun rise.

In all directions the views are stunning. Other guided hikes also can be organised in the surrounding valleys and to nearby traditional villages from the guest houses. A good 4WD vehicle or motorbikes are needed to access Hato Builico due to the steep mountainous terrain.

JACO, VALU & TUTUALA ISLAND

Jaco Island lies at the far eastern tip of Timor-Leste. Sacred Jaco Island is a tropical paradise. Its transparent waters teem with underwater life and offer fantastic diving, snorkelling and swimming opportunities. Besides diving, you will have the opportunity to view dolphins and whales in the wild – a totally exhilarating experience!

To access Valu Island, we need a small fishing boat. Accommodation at Valu ranges from eco-camping to guest houses. Guided trips through the forest to the local caves within the Nino Konis Santana National Park are another highlight. The drive down to Valusere from Tutuala is very steep in places and requires a 4WD vehicle.

At the top of the Tutuala escarpment from the local pousada, the views out to sea and across the forested ranges of the national park are stunning.

MAROBO HOT SPRINGS

The Marobo geothermal hot springs are located near Bobonaro in beautiful mountain country. Lying back in the hot water pools having a soak looking out over the valley is a very blissful experience. Most visitors travel up from their accommodation in Maliana or Balibo by motorbike or 4WD vehicle.

HOW TO REACH TIMOR-LESTE

To visit Timor-Leste you can either take a flight from Bali, Singapore or Australia or by land from the Indonesian side of the island, West Timor. From Australia-Darwin, it’s just over an hour, from Bali to Dili, it’s only two and half hours and from Singapore is about 3 and half hours by flight.

If you are interested in exploring unique cultures, different and new places and have an adventurous spirit, Timor-Leste is for you – come and visit.

The Land of Wonders – Zimbabwe

By His Excellency Dr. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Former Member of Parliament, Royal Thai Government

Located in South East Africa, separated from Zambia by the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe shares border with South Africa in the south, Mozambique in the east, and Botswana in the west. Gifted with many natural wonders and diverse landscapes, varied wildlife and high-quality safari destinations, unique heritage, history and museums, it is one of the most attractive travel destinations of the world

Zimbabwe is considered an attractive destination for tourists interested in traveling to Africa. In 2018, about 2.6 million tourists visited Zimbabwe, accounting for 3.8 percent of all tourists coming to Africa. It is ranked 4th, after Morocco (18.3 percent), South Africa (15.6 percent) and Tunisia (12.4 percent) (International Tourism Highlights 2019 Edition, p.21) (1). Although tourism may not be as important to the Zimbabwe economy as the mining and agriculture sectors, tourism also plays an important role in its economy. In 2016 and 2017, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Zimbabwe’s GDP was 3.5 percent, but the total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP, including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts, was over 8 percent (World Travel and Tourism Council) (2). Tourism in Zimbabwe is continuously expanding, average annual growth rate is 3% for the past 10 years. Tourists come to Zimbabwe for many reasons. Some of the features of Zimbabwe that attract tourists include the following:

MANY NATURAL WONDERS AND DIVERSE LANDSCAPES

Zimbabwe is a fabulous destination with abundant natural wonders and diverse landscapes. You can go to Zimbabwe and find great lakes, parks, waterfalls, mountains etc. National parks in Zimbabwe are amongst the finest in Africa. Some of them are truly spectacular, such as Hwange National Park (the third largest in Africa), Mana Pools (a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site) and Victoria Falls National Park. Zimbabwe has spectacular waterfalls in all shapes and sizes. Victoria Falls is one of greatest waterfalls in the world. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989 and is classified as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. There are also the Mtarazi Falls, which is Zimbabwe’s highest waterfall, and the Nyangombe Falls, a wider collection of cascading falls that form natural swimming pools. Moreover, there is Lake Kariba, where you can go relax on the shores, and the Eastern Highlands, a mountain range in the east of Zimbabwe, where you can hike the slopes.

VARIED WILDLIFE AND HIGHQUALITY SAFARI DESTINATIONS

Zimbabwe is a tourist destination that has some of the greatest variety of wild animals. Within 11 national parks and many special reserves in the country, you can find the Big Five – elephants, leopards, rhinos (black and white), buffalos and lions. Elephants are especially plentiful: Zimbabwe is home to one of the largest concentrations of elephants in the world. Other creatures include wild dogs, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, crocodiles and hippos. Zimbabwe is also renowned for its birdlife, with more than 600 species recorded countrywide. Zimbabwe is therefore a great place for a safari experience. It’s an exclusive place to travel as there are no masses of people or vehicles gathering around wildlife like the other tourist spots in its neighboring countries.

As a tourist, you can try a walking safari with an experienced, armed ranger and a high standard guide. At Mana Pools, Lake Kariba and Hwange, bush walks of all durations are available. Self-guided walking is also allowed at the Matobo hills as it lacks predators. Another highlight you should try if you love safari and want to experience the adventure is horse riding to explore the untamed wilderness.

Almost every national park, including the surrounds of Victoria Falls, have this activity. The Eastern Highlands is also a good spot for horse riding.

UNIQUE HERITAGE, HISTORY AND MUSEUMS

Zimbabwe is full of notable historic attractions. Evidence of ancient civilizations can be found in many places in Zimbabwe. The UNESCO site of Great Zimbabwe, or Great Enclosure, is the best place to start. The giant drystone walls are one of the main attractions of Zimbabwe today and can provide people who interested with an insight into Zimbabwe’s incredible history and remain as a reminder of ancient African civilization.

There is another UNESCO title holder, which is similar to Great Zimbabwe in many ways. It is called the Khami Ruins. It is the site of a former Iron Age capital that was constructed without any mortar, and housed residents and a royal family for around 200 years. Another interesting place to go see the best-preserved rock paintings in Africa is the Matobo National Park in the southwest of Zimbabwe. There is a selection of interesting artefacts dating all the way back to the pre-middle Stone Age, or more than 13,000 years. For museum lovers, Zimbabwe has some excellent collections for you to see.

The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare shows the country’s heritage. The Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences is home to the oldest wooden artefact discovered in sub-Saharan Africa. The Bulawayo Railway Museum has a collection of locomotives, carriages and provides a potted history of the city’s role at the heart of Zimbabwe’s once burgeoning railway network.

MANY FUN ACTIVITIES AND GENUINE CUSTOMER SERVICE

Zimbabwe has endless adventures to offer. In just the town of Victoria Falls alone there’s white-water rafting on the Grade 5 rapids of the mighty Zambezi River, bungee jumping, horseback safaris, gorge swinging, zip lining, abseiling and crocodile cage diving. Zimbabwe is an excellent, more affordable, option to some of its neighbours which offer similar experiences. As guiding is a comparatively well-paid career in Zimbabwe, it means that there are plenty of high-quality candidates willing to do the job. Moreover, Zimbabwe’s education system is one of the best in southern Africa. Therefore, Zimbabwe is full of well-educated guides who speak excellent English. They also have a reputation as being among the best in the business.

Their passion for wildlife is infectious and they delight in showing you what makes Zimbabwe so special. Not just as tour guides, Zimbabwean people are truly a joy to meet. They are warm, friendly, genuinely happy to see you enjoying their country and keen to share experiences they have as well. There is no better place to experience this than being on safari in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe may not be your first thought for a tourist destination. However, Zimbabwe has improved gradually. Zimbabwe is beautiful. It has a great number of tourist facilities. It is generally a safe country. Therefore, Zimbabwe is a great destination for you to visit once in your lifetime.

The Land of Pristine Beauty – Indonesia

By His Excellency Mr. Ahmad Rusdi, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the Kingdom of Thailand

Spread across 17,000 Indonesian islands scattered between the Asian mainland and Australia, the archipelago has more than its share of natural wonders and curious wildlife. One of the world’s major emerging economies, Indonesia is highly diverse, with more than 300 local languages

Amidst uncertain global economic situation and other current challenges, the tourism industry is expected to become one of promising sectors to give significant contribution to Indonesia’s positive outlook this year. In light of this, the Indonesian Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry is developing a tourism development strategy by focusing on five super priority tourism destinations out of 10 (ten) priority tourism destinations (or called “10 new Bali”) namely Lake Toba, Borobudur Temple, Labuan Bajo, Mandalika and Likupang. This decision was made directly by the President Joko Widodo and it was followed by the instruction to complete all infrastructures projects in those areas by 2020.

FIVE SUPER PRIORITY TOURIST DESTINATIONS ARE READY TO WELCOME YOU!

Each and every tourist destination offers one-stop destination concept which will enable people not only to enjoy beautiful scenery or attractive cultural performances but also to experience the creativity of local artists in making our famous art form. As some of these destinations are located in the Special Economic Zone, the government sets these areas as MICE destinations in which international events take place such as major art festivals, musical performances, sport events and business gatherings. Get to know more about these Indonesian five super priority destinations, herewith a brief review of each destination.

LAKE TOBA

Located in Sumatera, Indonesian fourth largest island, Lake Toba is well-known as the largest and deepest lake (1.145 square kilometres) in South East Asia. It offers its nature and tranquillity, chilly weather, breathtaking landscape and Bataknese culture. Lake Toba is also the largest lake in the world formed by volcanic eruptions and is included in the Guinness World Records list. In the middle of Lake Toba, there is Samosir Island with its several villages and extraordinary natural attractions such as mountains and waterfalls. Samosir Island is also home of the Batak Tribe.

The best season to go to Lake Toba is in September until November. It is the period when you can get a blast partying with the locals at the Lake Toba Festival as well as an annual event that showcase local art, music, and sports. It includes exciting activities such as dragon boating competitions, art performances and fashion shows. The local government prepares 30 events consisted of seven international events, 10 national events, and 13 local/community events.

For transportation services, the government subsidized bus services (for domestic region), boat, and the construction of crossing piers in nine ports targeted for completion this year.

BOROBUDUR TEMPLE

As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Borobudur temple is manmade structures which are truly breathtaking in their majesty, size and construction. This temple is simply massive and become one of the main tourist attractions in Java and Indonesia. This temple is located at the high of Menoreh Hill and is surrounded by Mount Merapi, Mount Merbabu, Mount Sindoro and Mount Sumbing.

Borobudur temple was built during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty (est. 760 and 830 AD) and the stupa-shaped temple was founded by Mahayana Buddhists. The building process is estimated between 75 to 100 years. The Borobudur temple was 100% completed during the reign of King Samaratungga in 825 AD.

Borobudur temple building is divided into 10 levels in the form of stepped terraces. The 10 levels of the Borobudur temple building symbolize the stages and processes of human life.

It has six square-shaped terraces, on top of which are three circular courtyards. Its walls are adorned with 2,672 relief panels and originally there were 504 Buddha statues. The largest main stupa lies in the centre and crowns this building, surrounded by three circular lines of 72 hollow stupas where a Buddha statue sits cross-legged in a perfect lotus position with a mudra (hand attitude) of Dharmachakra which means turning the dharma wheel. At every level, beautiful reliefs are carved which implicitly illustrates the teachings of Buddhism, which at that time became the religion of the community.

Besides being the highest symbol of Buddhism, the Mandala-shaped Borobudur is a replica of the universe. That symbolizes the micro-cosmos, which is divided into 3 levels. The first level is the human world where desire is influenced by negative impulses. The second level, where humans have been able to control their negative impulses and use their positive impulses. And at the highest level, where the human world is no longer limited by material things and desires.

The top floor of the Borobudur Temple is a very comfortable place to calm and freshen up, and to rest for a while after a trip around the Borobudur Temple from the first floor. Because, not only stupas, natural scenery around this level is also breathtaking.

LABUAN BAJO

Labuan Bajo is well-known as home of Komodo Island presenting extraordinary natural attractions, attractive natural landscapes and special coastlines. Labuan Bajo is used as an entry point if you visit Komodo Island and located on the western tip of Flores, East Nusa Tenggara region.

To see Komodo Dragon, you can visit Loh Liang National Park on Rinca Island. A ranger will guide you during the visit and you can easily see them close-up, from 2-3 meters away. Labuan Bajo is also ready to intrigue you with a variety of traditional and cultural tours that are full of history. One of them is Todo Village in West Manggarai.

in Todo Village you can see the uniqueness of Rumah Niang or Mbaru Niang. It has a cone-shaped roof. This traditional Todo house attracted the world’s attention when it was named as one of the candidates for the 2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture from UNESCO. You can also visit Kanawa Island which is a habitat for coral reefs of various colours and small fish, where you can enjoy many natural marina biotas. Nowadays Labuan Bajo is prepared by the government to become a super-premium tourist destination. This year the development of runway and terminal will start.

MANDALIKA

From the charm of the beach to the stunning underwater scenery, including hosting the grand MotoGP international motor racing championship event in 2021, Mandalika Lombok offers an unforgettable holiday experience for anyone who visits.

This tourist area is adjacent to several beautiful beaches in the south of the island of Lombok. In an untouched natural atmosphere, this region is so rich in the beauty of the vast expanse of coastline, complete with soft white sand. Starting from Kuta Mandalika Beach, Seger Beach, Serenting Beach, Putri Nyale, Tanjung Aan Beach, to Gerupuk Beach, all are ready to pamper you and your family.

For those of you who like to surf, Gerupuk Beach with sizable waves can be an option and Tanjung Aan Beach also Seger Beach which became a hidden paradise for foreign surfers. In addition to the stunning stretch of beach, not far from the center of the Mandalika area, there are Sade and Adde Ende Villages, representing a typical lifestyle of the Sasak people. There, you can get to know more about the diversity of the way of life of the original settlers of Lombok Island.

Mandalika is also known for the Bau Nyale Festival, an exciting local event that is held regularly on certain days and tourists can also join the festival. At the festival, locals from various other regions in Lombok will gather in certain lands and hunt for earthworms. According to local folklore, the worm that has been around for hundreds of years is considered sacred and brings happiness

LIKUPANG

Located in Northern Sulawesi, Likupang beach offers its authenticity. A green sea turtle can be seen under the water and its area is a favourite place to dive and snorkel.

Likupang has 4 (four) beautiful and enchanting destinations:

  1. Lihaga Island: This Island is located in Likupang District, North Minahasa and its beach has a stretch of fine white sand, which contrasts with the blue ocean. No need to go far, diving or snorkeling near the beach alone, we can see beautiful fish swimming freely.
  2. Pulisan Beach: This beach has three parts separated by rock cliffs jutting into the sea. The most favorite area in Pulisan is the cave near the beach.
  3. Pulisan Hill: Pulisan Hill shows an expanse of grassland with beautiful sea views from the top and this is one of the best spots to enjoy the area of Pulisan Beach and Pulisan Hill.
  4. Gangga Island: Gangga Island is a small island adjacent to Lihaga Island, a diving destination to enjoy marine life and exotic coral reefs under the sea.

Each of destinations has its own unique culture, enchanting view, distinctive and mouth-watering food and delicacies. Improved connectivity has enabled access to those destinations. One can easily visit Labuan Bajo from Jakarta or Bali, and also to other destinations.

The acceleration of infrastructure projects targeted to be completed this year will ensure further your comfortable stay in Indonesia. In short, whatever adventure one seeks for, one can always find a destination in Indonesia that will suit their passion.

The Sunny Side of Life! – Maldives

By His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Jinah, Ambassador of the Republic of Maldives to the Kingdom of Thailand

The Maldives is an archipelago with more than a thousand coral islands scattered in the middle of the Indian Ocean. These coral islands with their white sandy beaches are encircled by its crystalclear waters, turquoise blue lagoons and vibrant reefs surrounded by the magnificent ocean

Here, sun, sea and sand with spectacular underwater life stretching out miles position across the equator. Maldives is popularly known to travelers as paradise on earth.

STAYING IN THE MALDIVES

The Maldives offers different options and standards of stay catering to the specific needs and wants of travelers. Be it an exclusive high-end private island, a luxury resort island, a familyfriendly resort, a mid-range hotel, a simple guesthouse on a local island or an array of liveaboards from luxury safari yachts to diving or surfing safari boats.

RESORTS

Almost all the resort islands vaunt the tropical scenery with the lush green vegetation, and the attention given to the tiniest details adding to the ambience and the experience of the guests. One island – one resort; each resort hotel is on a separate individual island; with luxury facilities and caring staff attentive to guest requests throughout their stay, mindful of their privacy. For an exclusive stay, stay at a private island resort, most of these hideaways accessible only by private yachts. Romantic pool residencies, ultra-private residencies above the lagoons have some of their own private chefs and butlers.

GUESTHOUSES

With currently more than 500 guesthouses scattered across the island, a Maldivian guesthouse is an underrated blessing allowing you to experience the beauty of Maldives on a low-budget. Maldivians are friendly people with their own traditions and culture. The local island guesthouses provide the opportunity to share the simple lives of the local Maldivians without the frills. The stay options are great with stunning views of the seaside, try local dishes and enjoy a number of water sports options while observing the local culture up close on a modest budget. Serenity will surround you on the secluded sandbanks, excursions to nearby islands, and the fishing trips will provide a homely feel.

LIVEABOARDS

The liveaboard cruises the stunning Maldivian waters, offering desirable itineraries especially to divers enthusiastic to dive alongside popular pelagic like mantas. These liveaboards come with complimentary bars, hot tubs and even spa packages. Be mesmerized by the shades of the sky and the seas all day long.

EXPERIENCES AND ACTIVITIES IN THE MALDIVES

Numerous activities can be enjoyed in the country depending upon your requirements:

FOR THE ROMANTICS

Seclusion and privacy being a priority, a resort can cater as a private ‘love nest’. Elegant over-water villas are sought after by couples, especially honeymooners, due to its secluded location. The villas are secluded surrounding lush vegetations or even above an isolated lagoon, some even come with glass-bottomed floors through which you can view marine life. The veranda provides a panoramic view of the beauty of nature; waves lapping the beach with coconut palms just waving in the breeze. Most villas come with opento-the-stars bathrooms, private plunge pools and steps directly down into the lagoon. This is ideal for those in love, celebrating an anniversary or merely just spending some quality time together away from the humdrum of daily life with may be a candlelit dinner under the starry skies.

FOR THE FAMILY

Maldives have a number of accommodation options catering to families. Exclusive kids’ clubs cater to children’s entertainment offering age appropriate activities such as sand-filled playgrounds and shallow swimming pools. There are cooking classes, painting and even reading time to keep the younger ones entertained. The older kids will love jumping off the deck straight to the ocean and go scuba diving. Onsite marine biologists in a number of islands provide educational activities such as learning about the fragile environment through a coral-planting session or planting a commemorative coconut palm tree.

FOR THE ADVENTURE SEEKERS

Secluded in the ocean is rewarding for the country by being one of the world’s leading water sports hubs with almost a minimal effect on the environment. It could be paddling in a canoe around the lagoons to just gliding high above on a parachute. Almost every resort and even the inhabited islands with guest houses have a fully-equipped sports centre to enjoy various waterbased adventures.

DIVING

Maldives is the seventh largest coral reef in the world. The unique coral formations with a diverse marine life make it one of the most famous diving locations here. The southern atolls are renowned for spotting sharks and barracudas while the northern atolls house amazing coral formations. Famous points include the Manta Point for the manta enthusiasts, Furana Thila for caves frequented by sharks and Colosseum is the home to schools of eagle ray, whitetip reef shark, leopard shark, batfish and an occasional Whale shark can be spotted.

SPA

The spas in Maldives are achieving global recognition for their impeccable services. The design of the spa matches the luxurious standards of the resorts. Built over lagoons, surrounded by lush vegetations or even on the beach, the ambience reflects on peacefulness of both body and mind. More spas are now catering to adults and children alike, providing unforgettable memories to the whole family through creativity and organic spa treatments.

FLIGHTS TO THE MALDIVES

Maldives is easily accessible since numerous scheduled and chartered flights fly to the Maldives every day. The airport near the capital Male’ is the Velana International Airport which has become an international hub in recent years.

There are a number of flight connections available from different parts of the world; including many alliances and non-alliance airlines. Major scheduled flights operate directly from Dubai, Singapore, Istanbul and Doha.

Notably, Singapore Airlines, Bangkok Airways and Sri Lankan operate direct daily flights and many other flights connect from Middle East and Europe daily. For a more luxurious experience, a chartered flight would be desirable.

The ability to land on smaller airports scattered along the atolls would reduce the need for local transfers. Along with this flexibility, private flights fly at a much faster speed.

The Rising Country of the Southeast Asia – Cambodia

By His Excellency Mr. Ouk Sorphorn, Ambassador of Kingdom of Cambodia to the Kingdom of Thailand

Officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, Cambodia is a pearl of the Mekong River and a country that is located in the centre of and as the cradle of the culture of the Indo-China peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is 181,035 square kilometres in the total area, bordered by Thailand to the Northwest, Loas to the Northeast, Vietnam to the East, and the Gulf of Thailand to the Southwest

The sovereign state of Cambodia has a population of over 15 million citizens, of which 90% belong to the Khmer ethnic group. The official religion is Theravada Buddhism, practiced by approximately 90% of the population. Cambodia’s minority groups include Vietnamese, Chinese, Cham and different hill tribes. The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh which is the political, economic and cultural centre of Cambodia. The city is noted for its beautiful, attractive and historical architecture, and a number of surviving French colonial buildings are proudly gracing the grand boulevards today, where the East and the West meet each other with peace and harmony.

Looking back through the history, Cambodia had both prosperous and destructive periods. In 802 AD, King Jayavarman II declared himself the King, uniting the warring Khmer princes of Chenla under the name “Kambuja”.

This marked the beginning of the Khmer Empire, which flourished for over 600 years and undertook many religious infrastructural projects throughout the region, including the construction of more than 1,000 temples and monuments in Angkor area. The Angkor Wat is the most famous of these structures representing the World Heritage Site and it is symbol of Khemer culture and architecture.

After the fall of Angkor in 1431, the Kingdom entered a dark period, experienced scare resources and internal conflicts, and occupied by a different lineage of the Khmer kings who took the opportunities to establish their own power and empire including Chaktomuk (1431-1516), Longvek (1516-1620), Oudong (1620-1863) and followed by a protectorate of France for nearly a century (18631953). On 9 November 1953, Cambodia proclaimed independence from France by the most revered late King-Father Norodom Sihanouk, known as the Father of National Independence. Subsequently, Cambodia has gone through many ups and downs – from the glorious Sangkum Reastr Niyum to the Khmer rouge genocide regime and civil wars.

Since 1993, the country has been stated by the constitution as an elective constitutional monarchy with a monarch, currently His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, chosen by the Royal Council of the Throne as the head of state. Full peace, stability and development from year to year have been enjoyed since 1998. That positive and rapid development led Cambodia to be a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1999. The last free and fair general election was organized in July 2018 in accordance with democratic principles, which resulted in the Cambodian People’s Party, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, winning all 125 seats in the National Assembly. Over 83% of the eligible voters fulfilled their citizen duty and made the election a great success.

In the present day, under the auspice of His Majesty the King of Cambodia and visionary leadership of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The country has focused on the nation building in terms of economic growth and international prestige.

As a result, Cambodia has graduated herself from low-income to lowermiddle-income country, which reduced the poverty from 53.2% (2004) to 10% (2018). Cambodia is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, with growth averaging 7% over the last two decades. Agriculture remains the dominant economic sector, with strong growth in textiles, construction, garments and tourism leading to increase foreign direct investment and international trade.

According to the World Bank, Cambodia’s status has changed from the low-income status to a lowermiddle income country since 2015. Cambodia sets goal of transforming into an upper-middle income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.

Cambodia is ripe for investment, which is driven by the country’s friendly business environment and attractiveness for FDI. The country has very open investment laws and offers a range of incentives to investors. Cambodia’s gross domestic product has grown six-fold in this time period from US$3.1 billion (1998) to US$24.6 billion (2018). One of the best reasons to invest in Cambodia is they waive taxes for the first nine years, coupled with an inexpensive skilled labour force with language skills and steady growth; this makes the kingdom quite an attractive place to invest. Cambodia has been working very hard to further strengthen the capacity and to further promote its integration into the regional and the global economy.

To do “that” Cambodia’s vision and future trajectory is moving from agricultural sector to skill-driven industry and service oriented economy under the principles of inclusive and sustainable development. This vision and its implementation make Cambodia attractive destination. It is not only question of productions and services and new production plants, but also that offers opportunities for infrastructure projects and energy development.

TOURISM OPPORTUNITIES

As one of the fastest growing destinations in the Southeast Asia, Cambodia is its rich cultural heritages and unspoiled natural beauty. Thousands of ancient remains of the Khmer Empire, most notably the famous Angkor Wat temples together with other attractive tourist spots, greet a growing number of visitors of 6.61 million foreign visitors, earning approximately US$4.91 billion in revenue. Cambodia’s beautiful beaches and islands welcome those who wish to escape the fast-paced city life and glittering lights. Recently, the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association had conferred to Cambodia the International Award for Best Destination, which would help boost the Kingdom’s global popularity.

CAPITAL CITY PHNOM PENH AND SURROUNDINGS

The capital city of Phnom Penh is a tourist delight and has many attractive tourist destinations to offer. They are as follows:

ROYAL PALACE

The Royal Palace is a complex of buildings which serves as the Royal residence of the king of Cambodia. The complex includes the Silver Pagoda, the Khemarin Palace, the Throne Hall and the Inner Court.

NATIONAL MUSEUM

The National Museum contains the world’s largest collection of Khmer arts including sculptures, ceramics, bronze and ethnographic objects dating from prehistoric times before, during and after the Khmer Empire.

OUDONG MOUNTAIN

Oudong Mountain used to be a royal residence and Cambodia’s capital during the period from 1618 to 1866. Today, Oudong has become a highly sacred place after the relic of Preah Serei Roek Theat (ashes of Buddha) was moved here from Phnom Penn.

WAT PHNOM

Wat Phnom was built in 1373 and stands 27 meters above the ground and is the central point of the capital. The site may give you a feeling that you’re in a medieval place and the interior has a central altar complex with a large bronze seated Buddha surrounded by other statues and items of devotion and worship.

TONLE BATI

On the way to Tonle Bati, you can find two Angkorian era temples inducing Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau which were built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century during the same period around which Angkor Thom and the Bayon temples were constructed.

INDEPENDENCE MONUMENT

This monument was constructed in 1958 to mark Cambodian independence from France in 1953.

The monument is the centre of national ceremonies where soldiers march before the stupa to commemorate service men and women who sacrificed their lives for the country.


The Land of Breathtaking Beauty – Austria

By Dr. Eva Hager, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria to the Kingdom of Thailand

A country that is as well known for its scenic beauty as it is for its cultural activities, Austria is situated in the Alps. It is not only a very popular place with skiers and hikers, but it is also a country that gave the world an important musical heritage, ranging from the classical composer Mozart to the Strauss waltzes and the Von Trapp family

In 1869, the two imperial and royal navy frigates “Danube” and “Archduke Friedrich” reached the shores of Bangkok after a journey of 6 months. They were travelling on expeditions to Siam, China and Japan. The project did not pursue political or – beware of it – colonial purposes, the intention was to establish trade and commerce with the 3 big sovereign states. The same year, a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation was signed between the delegations of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Kingdom of Siam.

CELEBRATING 150 YEARS OF FRIENDLY RELATIONS

Celebrating 150 years of fertile relations is an auspicious moment for taking a photograph of the past and present state of affairs as well as throwing a glance at future perspectives. The Kingdom of Siam under the reign of H.M. King Chulalongkorn followed the maxim that balanced relations with different European nations would better serve the objective of preserving the sovereignty of the Kingdom than concentrating on a predominant colonial power.

So, in 1897, the Siamese King included Bad Ischl – the town of the imperial summer residence – Vienna and Budapest into his journey to Europe and was received by Emperor Franz Joseph I. with all imperial and royal distinctions.

Musical diplomacy always played an important role in the bilateral relations. This fact was already reflected by the exquisite and ample musical programme offered to the royal visitor in 1897. But it was even more so during the much appraised “State-visit of the year” in 1964, when H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, accompanied by Queen Sirikit, visited Austria.

King Rama IX gave a jazz jamsession together with famous Austrian jazz-musicians at the residence of the Thai Ambassador in Vienna, in the music-hall “Wiener Musikvereinssaal” compositions of the King were performed, and H.M. was formally admitted as the 23rd Honorary Member of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna (today University of Music & PA).

Queen Sirikit enchanted the audience by the melodies, she played on the piano of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg. Today, Austrian and Thai music universities and academic institutions are engaged in vivid exchanges. The classical and contemporary musical culture emanating from Austria played an important part in the anniversary celebrations of the Austrian Embassy Bangkok throughout 2019.

The Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Ratankanya performed with the participation of three outstanding members of the renowned Vienna Philharmonics on 21st of November compositions of the Princess on the auspicious occasion of the royal coronation and in honour of their Majesties King Rama X and Queen Suthida.

The State visit in 1964 led to cooperation in important infrastructureprojects and the establishment of a technical college, the Thai-Austrian Sattahip College, with Austrian support.

Today, Thailand has hundreds of such colleges across the country, but the Thai-Austrian project of the 70ies – presently endowed with an operating capacity for several thousand students – is still emblematic.

An intense Austro-Thai co-operation in the field of science and research started at the outset of the visit of Her Royal Highness Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in 1982 to Innsbruck. H.R.H. was awarded the rank of anHonorary Senator of the University of Innsbruck as the youngest and first female member of the senate.

The dynamic co-operation between Universities soon required a more systematic approach through the creation of a net-work of Universities. It was first established in the 90ies under Austrian and Thai inspiration as the “Austrian South East Asian University Network”, and soon expanded through the accession of new members to the “ASEANEuropean Academic UNINET” under the same acronym “ASEA UNINET”.

Today, it unites 83 Universities, whereby Austria with 19 and Thailand with 18 are the most active participants. The network is an important pillar for enabling and financing important joint research projects, and its relevance is demonstrated by the several hundred alumni and alumnae, many of whom are in key positions in both countries.

One important partnership on this basis is the co-operation between the Thai Silpakorn University and the Vienna University of Applied Arts in establishing a regional centre for conservation and renovation and elaborating a curriculum for the study courses.

An important sign for the high quality of our relations and the mutual respect and esteem is also that Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Narendiradebyavati represented Thailand between 2012 and 2014 as Royal Thai Ambassador in Vienna.

The economic relations with the total exchanges in both directions of 900 mio€ are important. Of course, Thailand being a world champion as exporter, sends the bigger part of the cake, which consists – to and fro – of sophisticated industrial goods. Around 100 Austrian companies are represented in Thailand, and some 40 are doing important productive operations, some of them with more than 10 000 employees.

The cumulated investments of Austrian companies of around 600 Mio € might soon reach the 1 billion threshold with the important new investment of the Austrian bio-fibre giant Lenzing. It will establish its biggest production site at global level with an investment of up to 400 million € over the next years on Thai soil. Austrian companies in the railway- and mass-transit sectors are traditionally very successful on the Thai market.

In the celebrations during the commemorative year 1869 – 2019 activities regarding innovation, sustainability and intelligent solutions were high on our agenda. There is an excellent and close co-operation between the capital cities of Vienna and Bangkok in the field of twinning the innovation districts of both countries.

An important inter-active exposition about the results of this co-operation was shown in October 2019 in Bangkok. There is great potential for increased co-operation in the field of architecture and design, also triggered by the Austrian flagship project of holistic sustainability, epitomized in the new Austrian Embassy building in Sathorn, which has won already several international prizes for its architectural excellence.

In 2019, Vienna was present at the annual fair of the “Association of Siamese Architects” with two expositions, one on the works of Viennese design- and landscaping offices, and another one of “Vienna smart city”.

For the first time, we also featured with a contribution at the “Bangkok Design week” in 2020. Bangkok has attained by this major annual event the distinction of being “UNESCO creative City” and we are proud of having contributed to this forum for the first time.

I believe that in the field of science, research and education, including dual vocational education, there is still scope for improving our co-operation in meeting the new challenges by joining hands: the need for increased internationalization of studies and curricula, the need for up- and reskilling; for University staff exchange programmes, for the improved networking between alumni and alumnae, the need for commercializing the results of joint research works and a lot more in this direction.

In January, the Embassy organized together with Thai public and private sector an academic forum between Universities of both countries. And in February, the Eastern Economic Corridor Office and other Thai agencies as well as the Embassies of Austria in Bangkok and of Thailand in Vienna organized a comprehensive work-shop on educational and economic co-operation.

I consider these explorative endeavours springboards for increased and improved educational and economic co-operation.

TOURISM OPPORTUNITIES

1,05,000 Austrian tourists visit Thailand every year, and we have a confirmed number of 40,000 Thais visiting Austria according to our visasection.

However, given that many tourists visit Austria on a combined trip via other countries, we guess, that as many Thais as Austrians visit each other’s country every year.

Austria, in comparison to Thailand, is a smaller country. But you will be surprised by its great variety of beautiful landscapes: crystal clear lakes with drinking water quality ringed by deep green hills and domineering mountains, hilly forests rising out of lush farmland, Alpine peaks reaching for the sky, peaceful pastures and quaint villages resting at their feet as well as vineyards on rock terraces and ancient castles and grand abbeys.

All this invites to a great diversity of activities and leisure: skiing, horseback-riding, water-sports, hiking, biking, relaxing and detoxing in spas with natural mineral waters. One of the main gifts of Austria is also its heritage cities with their wellpreserved splendor of the past and contemporary architectural highlights, and a rich and varied offer of classical and contemporary culture.

Vienna and Salzburg are the Cities of Music. An array of internationally acclaimed opera- , theatre- and music festivals are on offer throughout the year.

Floating stages on lake Constance in the West, or lake Neusiedlin the East and innumerous concerts in castles and monasteries are magnets attracting music-lovers to a special summer experience. Finally, do not forget to experience the Austrian ‘Gemütlichkeit’!

The cosiness and laid back atmosphere of the famous coffee houses, the jolliness of beer gardens, bucolic wine taverns, or alpine huts are unique. Viennese cakes and pastries and other delicacies such as the crispy Viennese Schnitzel tempt everybody’s palate.

I extend to all Thai and Asian friends who want to visit Austria a heartfelt welcome. Arrive and revive in our beautiful country.

The Land of Tolerance, Dialogue and Openness – Morocco

By His Excellency Mr. Abdelilah EL HOUSNI, Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar

At a crossroads of the African and the European continents, the Kingdom of Morocco has been, for centuries, a meeting point for the arabo-islamic culture and civilisation as well as a land of tolerance, dialogue and openness

With an area of 710,850 square kms, bordered by 3,500 kilometres of coastline and crossed by various mountain ranges, Morocco is characterised by an incredible diversity of people and landscapes. Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea in North Africa, Morocco is cut by the various fingers of the Atlas Mountains and the lone range of the Rif Mountains in the North and the Sahara desert in the South.

ONE OF THE TOP 20 TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD

The landscapes in Morocco are magnificent. Morocco features both sea and mountain and is home to the full range of Mediterranean climates, which surrender to the sands of the Sahara. The country serves up marvellous vistas that you will enjoy soaking in and discovering for yourself. With its mix of diverse, captivating panoramas and a rich kaleidoscope of culture, Morocco is an unbeatable destination. These characteristics give Morocco an aerial fingerprint unlike any other in Africa.

Morocco has become one of the preferred destinations for Tourists, thanks to the 2020 Tourism Vision initiated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God assist Him, which set, amongst others, an objective of making Morocco one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world.

Though rooted in its traditions, Morocco offers all the conveniences of modern times. Morocco is a firmly future-focused country that has succeeded in preserving its traditions and promoting its cultural heritage by harnessing them to drive development. The city of Marrakesh is a perfect example: the Medina district and its souks have an unmatched old-fashioned charm, while Guéliz and Hivernage are decked out with the most modern infrastructure and facilities.

Morocco is striving to avoid the pitfalls of modern life, especially when it comes to the environment, by favouring tourism practices that are respectful of the Earth and local communities. As the author of a sustainable tourism charter and host of COP22, Morocco is on the front lines to preserve our planet.

The visitor will enjoy every modern convenience and pleasure. For the accommodations, Morocco is full of hotels in every price range from the major international chains. Plus it also has the biggest international ready-to-wear shops, which are taking advantage of the ideal opportunity for positioning in a fast developing country.

The best approach is to walk through the cities and villages and experience the narrow alleys of ancient neighbourhoods. This brings the visitor close to the people: talk to them! They are certain to invite you to have a cup of Moroccan tea, a time-honored ritual of hospitality and ceremony.

Hospitality in Morocco is legendary and people are more open-minded than ever, besides the Kingdom of Morocco is a safe place to visit characterised by its coexistence, openness and tolerance.

Morocco and its inhabitants espouse an enviable Mediterranean lifestyle that has been recognized by UNESCO. This lifestyle comprises practices, foods and symbols that bring pleasure to every day and are sure to captivate you as well.

The kingdom loves its celebrations, which punctuate the calendar. One of the types of events that bring Moroccans together are its famous moussems, festive events. Do not miss the TanTan moussem, which is especially well known and has been listed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage register since 2008. The Essaouira Gnaouas festival is also highly recommended. These gatherings are opportunities for you to interact with and immerse yourself in the different cultures that make Morocco such a rich, diverse country.

This is but a glimpse of the myriad cultures that still thrive in Morocco. Work your way across the country and get to know these treasures of Morocco’s intangible cultural heritage. A handful of regions that make Morocco such an attractive destination we can mention: Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Rabat, Dakhla, Laayoune, Merzouga, Agadir, Ifrane, Oujda, Casablanca etc.

6 TOP REASONS TO INVEST IN MOROCCO:

Some of the top reasons to invest in Morocco are as follows:

A COMPLETE PACKAGE FOR INVESTORS The kingdom of Morocco is a stable country both economically and politically. The GDP grows continuously and the rate of inflation is very low, hence unlikely to affect the growth of the economy, job creation or consumption. In addition, Morocco has been continuously investing in its infrastructures, such as the high speed train (the first one in Africa), highways, and maritime and airline connections. Furthermore, the kingdom has several sectoral development strategies that provide investors with clarity and are testament to the government’s push for improved efficiency and profitability in key sectors such as industry, tourism and energy, to name a few. For example, the Industrial Acceleration Plan offers investors tailor-made incentives depending on their activity, the size of their investment and job creation. These measures have helped Morocco develop many competitive industries, in particular the automotive sector, which now gathers some 230 international companies employing approximately 92,000 people, with a total export turnover of $3.4 billion in 2017.

Ideally located 14 km from Spain, Morocco has used this advantage to be the regional manufacturing and export base for many international companies. It is also a gateway to Africa and many of its leading companies are operating in the continent in various sectors such as banking, insurance, airlines, and phosphates.

Morocco is an open economy and companies established here can benefit from 55 free trade agreements giving them access to over 1.6 billion consumers worldwide.

Finally, one of the kingdom’s main assets lies in its youth, which is educated and trained in our various universities and specialised training centres established through publicprivate partnerships. Actually, there are six top reasons to invest in Morocco:

  1. The most attractive African country for foreign investors: Morocco benefits from solid macroeconomic fundamentals, continuous growth in GDP drivenby internal demand and public investment, plus a modern legal and regulatory framework. By lightening tax, financial and administrative burdens for investors, as well as increasing protections for their investments, it now offers an exceptionally competitive and business-friendly environment.
  2. The regional hub for exports: The Kingdom of Morocco is at the geographical crossroads of Europe, the US, Africa and the MiddleEast, and has agreements with diverse countries and regional bodies (including the European Union and the US) that provide exporters based in Morocco with free-trade access to over one billion consumers.
  3. Advanced infrastructure that is unmatched in Africa World-class infrastructure ensures optimal connections within Morocco and internationally. Morocco’s telecommunications, road, rail, airport and seaport networks are constantly being expanded, and it already boasts Africa’s biggest port and largest airport hub. This focus on high-quality infrastructure extends to its numerous general and sector-specific industrial parks and special economic zones.
  4. A highly skilled, young and competitively costed workforce: Over 64% of Moroccan citizens are under 34 and they are well educated. More than 124 universities and public schools generate at least 40,000 graduates every year, while 356 vocational institutions train over 410,000 students. In addition to being qualified, the competitively costed workforce has language skills, cultural openness, and a commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.
  5. An attractive set of tailor-made incentives for investors: Strategic sector-based plans have been launched to attract the private sector. These envisage significant investments in mining, liquefied natural gas, modern farming, tourism, digital technology and renewable energy. In addition, an industrial acceleration plan backed by a $2-billion public fund aims to boost industry in the country.
  6. One of the best places in the world to visit: Morocco combines its modernity with a rich cultural heritage. It is home to many internationally-renowned arts and music festivals, as well as one of the world’s most popular cuisines. The country also provides the opportunity to indulge in a wide range of experiences, from sports, mountain hiking and camel safaris, to shopping in bustling bazaars and relaxing on stunning beaches.

DEEPLY ROOTED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

Morocco plays, thanks to its geostrategic position, the role of a trade and investment hub for Africa. It serves as a bridge between the Maghreb, West Africa and the rest of the continent.

The economic strategy developed under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, towards the African continent, makes Morocco as a regional hub in other various key areas, including food security, infrastructure and renewable energy.

Moreover, Morocco is the largest investor in the West African region, in key sectors such as infrastructure, housing, electricity, fisheries, health, transport, banking and insurance, among others.

Morocco is contributing effectively to “green revolution” in Africa. In terms of food security, the Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), the world’s largest phosphate exporter, launched several major projects in Africa.

India & The UAE Relations: Supporting Stability & Strength in Mutual Economic Corridors

Though Indo–UAE cultural, religious and economic relations are age-old, new paths were paved after the accession of H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966. When UAE Federation was created in 1971, formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were initiated, as the UAE Embassy opened in India in 1972 and the Indian Embassy in the UAE in 1973.

Understanding the political and economic importance of each other, both countries sincerely and consistently worked on improving relations & business, and occasionally gave momentum with visits of top leaders from both sides.

NEW COMPREHENSIVE & STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

The initiation of the current golden era took place in 2015 with the historic visit of PM Narendra Modi to the UAE. This led to consolidation of the existing relationship in the old sectors, and exploration of newer areas for taking the bilateral relations to an altogether new level.

Acknowledging each other’s growing importance in the world economy and to create more win–win situations, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited India in 2016. This took the discussions and agreements to the next level, and the following wide-ranging and far-reaching agreements/MoUs were made/signed carefully considering the bilateral, regional and multilateral concerns: Facilitation of Institutional Investors in Infrastructure, Cooperation in Renewable Energy, Cooperation in Combating Cyber-Crimes, Cultural Exchange, Space, Skill Development, Insurance and Currency swaps.

H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited India soon again in 2017 as the Chief Guest for India’s Republic day celebrations. These two visits created an unprecedented momentum, and both countries held several Ministerial-level visits and established institutional mechanisms for sustained action on sector-specific opportunities. Such institutional mechanisms include Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation (JCM), Strategic Dialogue, Foreign Office Consultations (FOC), High Level Task Force on Investment (HLTFI), Joint Committee on Security Matters (JCSM), Joint Committee on Consular Matters (JCCM), Joint Defense Cooperation Committee (JDCC), Joint Working Group (JWG) on Renewable Energy and Joint Committee on Manpower Resources (JCMR).

In addition to the above mechanisms, a local coordination and grievance redressal mechanism, in the form of a Local Coordination Committee (LCC), has also been put into place, which redresses grievances of the Indian community in the UAE. LCC comprises officers from the Embassy and their UAE counterparts, meets regularly and resolves consular, manpower and community-related issues.

The significance and enhancement of bilateral relations between India and the UAE may be understood by observing that ministerial visits between the two countries have become a regular phenomenon to initiate, get the ball rolling and to finally implement: Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, visited the UAE in January 2017; Dr. Subhash Bhamre, Minister of State for Defense, visited the UAE in February 2017; Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways, visited the UAE in March 2017; Mr. M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, visited the UAE in April 2017; Ms. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Minister of State for Food Processing, visited the UAE in August 2017; Mr. M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, visited the UAE again in October 2017; Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu visited the UAE in October 2017; and Mr. M J Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, visited the UAE a third time in November 2017.

IMPROVING COMMERCIAL RELATIONS

India is the largest trading partner of the UAE, and the UAE is the third-largest – after China and the US – trading partner of India. UAE is also the second-largest export destination of India, and the tenth-biggest investor in India in terms of FDI.

The huge business community from India has played a major role in the economic development of the UAE, and it makes an annual remittance of several billion USD. The contribution of the Indian community in the development and prosperity of the UAE has been duly acknowledged by the UAE Government, and it has also taken steps for developing efficient grievance-redressal mechanisms for the Indian workers in the UAE. The Indian Embassy has developed Guidelines for Indians in the UAE so they avail maximum benefits, a comprehensive online web-based NRI registration system has been developed for Indians resident in the UAE, and an online web-based portal called E-migrate system has also been established for recruitment of Indian workers in the UAE.

HISTORICAL CULTURAL RELATIONS

Historical ties between both countries have led to regular cultural exchanges both at official and people-to-people levels. The Indian Embassy regularly organizes various cultural activities at its own as well as by collaborating with Indian Associations/Cultural Organizations based in the UAE, and in addition to business forums, celebrates International Yoga Day, Gandhi Jayanti, and other events such as unveiling stamps on Ramayana.

The Embassy supports cultural events organized by various expatriate Indian Associations, as the Indian Community in the UAE is the largest expatriate community in the UAE, and their involvement makes a positive impact on the public and cultures of both nations.

FOREIGN POLICY

Narendra Modi’s PM-level visit to the UAE in 2015 took place after a gap of 34 years, as the last Prime Minister to visit the UAE was Indira Gandhi in 1981. However, more important are the follow-up visits and subsequent actions that took place after Narendra Modi’s visit, as since 2015, both countries have created unprecedented momentum of discussions and actions, which has not only achieved a lot on the ground, but has also given a message to the world that both India and the UAE are serious about business growth and stand together powerfully on every matter of concern.

India and the UAE have taken several steps in the recent years to build strong bilateral relations. Some of them include:

• The UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and its partner Saudi Aramco have jointly taken a 50 percent stake in the planned $44 billion refinery-cum-petrochemical complex at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. Aramco and ADNOC will together own 50 percent of the planned project. The remaining 50 per cent stake is held by India’s state-owned Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum.

• India has built 5.33 million tonne of emergency storage that is enough to meet its oil needs for 9.5 days, in underground rock caverns in Mangalore and Padur in Karnataka and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It has allowed foreign oil companies to store oil in the storages on condition that the stockpile can be used by New Delhi in case of an emergency.

• India and the UAE have signed a currency swap agreement to boost trade and economic relations. The agreement is expected to reduce the dependency on hard currencies like US dollar and give a push to the local currencies of the two nations. It will also reduce the impact of volatility in exchange rate arising from the dependency on a third currency. India and the UAE bilateral trade stood at $52 billion in 2017, with non-oil trade accounting for $34 billion. India’s FDI into the UAE in 2016-17 was $6.6 billion while the UAE’s investment in India stood at $5.8 billion.

• A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by India and the UAE to explore opportunities for mobilization of up to $75 billion long-term investment in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF). The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks. NIIF will solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.

• The UAE has actively worked with India to hand over terrorists and terror masterminds in the past decade. The UAE has also shown its seriousness in its partnership with India against terrorism by showing its preference towards India as a key pillar of its Look East Policy amid growing disenchantment with traditional ally Pakistan. The UAE has even deported Indian-origin sympathizers of the Islamic State (IS), and has voluntarily shared information with India on terror operatives and their networks.

• Extradition of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the INR 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal has been a diplomatic victory for India. Two other accused in the case were also extradited from the UAE later. This shows how close both countries have come on extradition matters as things that did not happen years were done in one day.

• To improve ties further, for the first time Indian firms have been given a stake in Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas field. This happened when an Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC)-led consortium of Indian state oil firms was awarded 10% stake in Abu Dhabi’s offshore Lower Zakum Concession for $600 million. The current production of this field is about 400,000 barrels of oil per day and Indian firms’ annual share shall be about 2 million metric tonnes. The field output is set to plateau at 450,000 barrels per day by 2025. This mutually beneficial partnership will create opportunities for ADNOC to increase its market share in the fast-growing Indian market. By delivering high-quality crude to India’s expanding refining industry, it will help India meet its growing energy demand.

• The UAE and Saudi Arabia have decided to make India as a base for food security for the countries and plan to invest in both organic and food processing industries. The Indian government has identified products to be exported from each district, and has divided them into clusters for better results. For example, Nasik has been identified for grapes, Nagpur for oranges and Ratnagiri for mangoes. The UAE and Saudi Arabia showed interest in investing in Indian agriculture after the new export policy removed restrictions on the export of both organic and horticultural products.

• India has achieved a major diplomatic breakthrough with an invitation as a guest of honour to the meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers. This fact is more important in the light that Pakistan is a founding member of the OIC, and it tried blocking India’s attendance at OIC. The UAE was the host, and it stood firm behind India. This was a message to the world that voice of moderation was gaining strength among OIC member states, with the UAE leading from the front.

ANALYSIS

The growing relations have been very ambitious, and have a distinct pattern, as analyzed below:

• Bilateral relations between India and the UAE were traditionally based on oil and general import & export of commodities. However, as the UAE decided to aggressively diversify its economy, it reached out to the world. Indians, who comprise the largest expatriate community in the UAE (at over 3.3 million people, it is also one of the largest Indian expatriate community in the world), were quick to reap the benefits of this outreach, and at a balance of trade figure of USD 57 billion, have become the largest trading partner of the UAE.

• Back in 1982 (Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister before Narendra Modi who visited the UAE), foreign trade between India and the UAE stood at USD 182 million. By 2016–17, it had reached USD 53 billion. Today, we have explored fresher sectors for trade, such as IT, space technology, tourism, defence manufacturing and renewable energy.

• India’s foreign policy, economy and global reputation have exceptionally improved since 1981, as India has become the fastest-growing major economy in the world. During Indira Gandhi’s time, the world knew India as the friend of Soviet Union. Currently, we have friendly relations with all the countries of the world. This offers us an opportunity to create multidimensional beneficial relations with the UAE.

• India’s image before the world is that of a non-interfering, peaceful country that wants security and stability with its neighbours and all over the world. In addition, India has projected an image that it is willing to take actions and decisions on mutually beneficially opportunities. Its foreign policy appears mature, proactive and dynamic. This sure has attracted the UAE to match the willingness to embrace and explore newer avenues. The two countries are not simply good to each other; they have started acting and implementing together.

• Fight against terrorism has brought both countries together. Defence cooperation and combating extremism and ideologies of hatred have encouraged them to work together and find mutual solutions.

• The growing opportunities and population in India have also increased a demand for jobs. Indians have been seeking job opportunities in the UAE very actively, and this gives an additional commercial opportunity to both the countries, as these Indians are not only helping in the development of the UAE, but these more than 3.3 million people are the largest source of remittances to India – close to USD 15 billion.

• India is the fastest-growing major economy in the world; its markets need investments; it’s the third-largest consumer of oil; on the other hand, the UAE has sovereign funds with a corpus of over a trillion dollars. It makes complete sense that their relations are improving.

• Very different from earlier actions taken to improve bilateral relations, high-level visits from both sides have been followed by a formation of a rigorous structure of committees. This has transformed the relations into a comprehensive strategic partnership, as these committees are working full time for definite results and improvements in relations. These committees meet once or twice a year, and explore how investment opportunities and foreign direct investments between both nations can be increased.

• Increase in investment platforms such as the UAE–India Economic Forum or the Asian Business & Social Forum has helped increase the interactions between various stakeholders, and has also helped take the relations at the next level.

• The Indian diaspora of more than 3.3 million is not passive. With a record 1,000-plus flights a week between India and the UAE, tourism between the two countries has risen immensely. The UAE has significantly eased visiting visa norms for Indians, as anyone carrying a US visa or a Green Card or a UK or EU visa or holding a residency gets a visa on arrival in the UAE. Reciprocating vision and intention, India has set up an e-visa scheme for Emiratis, under which UAE nationals get almost instantaneous visas at 16 airports across India.

• Such visits have also helped both countries offer opportunities in the fields of education, investments, medical treatments, or vacation tourism.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been awarded the Zayed Medal, the highest civil honour of United Arab Emirates (UAE). Though because of the timing, many considered it a pre-poll move to boost his image, it must be understood that the UAE always wanted to recognize PM Modi’s long and concerted efforts towards developing strong ties with the Gulf countries. The award also reflected PM Modi’s special efforts towards boosting relations between the Emiratis and Indians.

• PM Modi’s efforts are more than conspicuous as he has visited 10 West Asian countries since 2014, more than his four predecessors combined. His efforts definitely yielded results as despite large volumes of trade, and several million Indians remitting several billion dollars back home each year from Gulf States, investments didn’t improve for decades.

Matter of factly, things started changing under PM Modi, Indo-UAE relations improved immensely, and gradually but strategically the UAE emerged as a partner in fields such as defence and counter-terrorism.

Because PM Modi has adopted a bold approach in foreign policy not only with our neighbours, but throughout the world, his efforts have also generally improved India’s stance in the Arab world.

India’s strategic demographic and geographic connections with the entire world give it power to amicably resolve several global and international issues.

The growing closeness with the UAE and powerful trade relations with Iran would definitely help India continue its stable relations with the entire Gulf.

A Winner in Adversity

Known as the most powerful person currently in the world, Donald John Trump is the 45th President of the United States. A businessman and television personality before entering politics, he has faced consistent opposition and criticisms for his policies, statements and ideas. However, shrugging off everything that’s negative, he has focused on work and achievements

Trump has consistently received backlash for his populist, protectionist, and nationalist policies, by the world liberals. He has even been polled as the least popular US President in the history of modern opinion polls. His lack of experience in administration and politics has gone heavily against him. Figures have always spoken badly for him. While 64% Americans rated for Barack Obama that they had confidence in him to do the right thing when it came to international affairs, only 22% showed confidence in Trump on the same parameters. Actually, majority of voters have shown low opinions of his character and competence.

However, the question is: has this affected Trump? Not really, as he has continued with his policies, statements and ideas as if oblivious of any critic’s or opponent’s existence. It has definitely given him an advantage too; he is able to show he has done something, as consistently focusing on corrections, he has been able to deliver finally.

Actually, his wins are more than his losses, in any field, be it business, politics or his personal life. He has managed his businesses well, and according to March 2018 estimates by Forbes magazine, he is the world’s 766th richest person with a net worth of US$3.1 billion, and therefore one of the richest politicians in American history and the richest President of USA.

He has even co-authored several books, including The Art of the Deal, owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015, and produced & hosted the reality television show The Apprentice from 2003 to 2015.

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Heart-to-Heart Talk with Shri P P Chaudhary

Shri P P Chaudhary is a renowned name in Indian politics. He is one of the strongest knights in the army of Shri Narendra Modi, as the Union Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Justice; and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. He is a man of action who is fully committed to and is actively involved in getting innumerable farmers justice and in improving & uplifting the status of girls & women not only in his Pali Lok Sabha constituency but also in the entire State of Rajasthan and at the national level. His life story is an immense inspiration for youth in general and for people of all ages who have a white heat of desire to do great in life. Please read on for excerpts of his interview with Anam Kumar

Before becoming a Member of Parliament, or a Minister, you were a highly successful advocate, and used to farm with your father on your family land. What are your views on the current issue of farmers’ agitation? How has the government helped farmers as long-term solutions?

Yes. I have been in the law profession for the last 38 years and am also a senior advocate practicing in High Courts and Supreme Court. It is true that I have worked for the causes of farmers. I come from a family of farmers. My father trained me into various aspects of farming while I was young and I have seen farming from close quarters. I can understand the agony of the farmers and can empathize with them because I see they have been wronged both in the pre- and post-British era. The present agitation by the farmers is the result of accumulation of injustices meted out to farmers due to wrong policies in the last 60 years which impoverished the farmer and weakened his economic condition to such an extent that he is not able to withstand even minor disruptions due to market pricing patterns or due to nature’s fury and calamities. There are hardly any surpluses left with him be it in the form of grains, fodder or even savings.

To mitigate the problem of farmers, our PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji has taken the right steps in the direction of reducing cost of farming while at the same time doubling the income of the farmers in the coming years. The most important step has been to bring about a scheme by which the Government is assisting the farmer to determine the health of the soil, the outcome of which will determine the amount of manure or fertilizer that is required by the soil. Then there has been emphasis on use of Neem-coated Fertilizers as well as cheaper crop insurance through Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. To me, in the past misaligned incentives have resulted in the overuse of insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This has resulted in soil degradation. The PM’s roadmap of doubling farmer’s incomes through use of technology, integrated agricultural markets (through e-NAM), organic manure, cheaper crop insurance and cheaper loan assistance are steps in the right direction and are being welcomed by the farming community.

You have worked a lot for girl child education in Pali district, Rajasthan and generally in the country. Your wife has also helped you in this cause. Do you think women empowerment needs to be done politically, socially and financially at the same time? Please share with us what all you have been doing for girl child education and women empowerment.

Yes, my wife has been very active in the field of women empowerment and girl education. Women empowerment is the need of the hour. An empowered woman means an empowered family. And yes, as you rightly pointed out, this empowerment has to be multifaceted.

Politically, you need to create an environment where more women enter politics and take policy decisions in the interest of the society.

To make them socially empowered, you need to reduce their working time in the kitchens, provide clean toilets at homes and proper sanitation measures, thereby giving them a clean and healthy environment. To support the higher education of girls from rural areas, we need to provide safe and quality hostels for them in urban areas.

Financially we need to focus on giving them low-cost insurance schemes, essential work skills and better and safe work environments.

I am confident that our Prime Minister’s sincere efforts in introducing well-thought-out schemes such as Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, etc. will create the kind of environment that is beneficial for the betterment of our society in the long run.

I have taken the initiative ever since I have become an MP to provide insurance cover under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) for 1,31,175 (One lakh thirty-one thousand one hundred seventy five) women of my Lok Sabha constituency, Pali, from my own salary.

“To mitigate the problem of farmers, our PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji has taken the right steps in the direction of reducing cost of farming while at the same time doubling the income of the farmers in the coming years”
Please share with us some of your inspiring experiences as a Minister in the government.

I have developed a strong work ethic during my 38 years of law practice. After becoming a Minister, I spend a major chunk of my time in office be it in Shastri Bhawan or Electronics Niketan. Even my personal staff has now understood my habits and works with me late hours. I am encouraged by the motivation of my staff. They are enthusiastic about the work they do and the ideas that the Government wants to implement.

Earlier this year, when I got a chance to interact with the scientists working in the Ministry in the field of nanotechnology, I was extremely delighted to see their enthusiasm and commitment for undertaking pathbreaking research in the niche field. I was convinced that with such a set of dedicated scientists at work, we shall surely attain Hon’ble PM’s dream of creating a New India by the year 2022.

As the Union Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Justice, and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, please share with us the several development works your Ministries are conducting.

In the Ministry of Electronics & IT, we are working on ensuring that Digital India programme of the Government achieves its objectives and transforms India into a digital economy. While at one end, we are enrolling people for Aadhaar, on the other we are encouraging them to open bank accounts, link them with Aadhaar and use it to receive Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) from the Government as well as move towards digital payments. At the same time, we have launched schemes to promote digital literacy such as PMGDISHA. We are also working towards promoting growth of electronics manufacturing in the country as well as promoting start-ups in the Electronics & IT Space. We are also promoting adoption of technology in the education and health sector across the country. Recently, we had a conference with the industry captains on how to make India a Trillion Dollar Digital Economy and everyone was unanimous that this is too small a target if we continue to formulate and implement industry-friendly policies.

In the Ministry of Law & Justice, our focus is on ensuring that vacancies of judges in the higher judiciary are filled at the earliest so to provide timely justice to the people and to reduce pendency of cases in the courts. We are also working on laws, which are the main cause of pendency of cases in courts. We have already repealed around 1,200 obsolete laws. We are also working on promoting alternate dispute resolution mechanisms to ease the burden of courts and to reduce tortuous litigation. Then there is the focus on providing technology in the courtrooms to make it easier for people to interact with the judicial process and reduce the time of litigation.

You are known to be a very grounded political leader. What is your source of inspiration and who is your role model?
I thank you for your remarks! I try my level best to help the people and when in doubt I seek guidance from my seniors and elders. My parents have been the biggest source of inspiration for me during school and college days. I have had to work very hard alongside my father to make both ends meet. It is hard to forget tilling the soil by using oxen and reaping the harvest in the blazing hot sun in Rajasthan. This instilled in me the importance of hard work, which has helped me in my career as a lawyer and now as a Minister.

I am also inspired by the teachings of Swami Vivekanand for he brought spirituality in the realm of modernity in India. He made us realize our cultural and traditional roots and the richness of our heritage.

Role models, there are many.
Presently it is our Prime Minister who continues to inspire me. While I was doing fine in my legal profession all these years, I always had an urge to do something for my country. However, I was always held back by the thought that common people like me with only hard work and legal experience as their forte stood no chance in a system that rewarded the corrupt irrespective of their capabilities. However, inspired by the clarion call of Shri Narendra Modi Ji to provide a clean and transparent governance for the betterment of the country, I decided to take a plunge in politics. I was surprised by the trust Modi Ji has generated amongst our citizens. I witnessed it from close quarters when people voted me over my competitors by over 4 lakh votes in the 2014 General Elections.

You are the Chairperson of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Offices of Profit, and a Member of many other important Committees. What is the role of such Committees?

The work done by the Parliament in modern times is not only varied in nature, but considerable in volume. The time at its disposal is limited. It cannot, therefore, give close consideration to all the legislative, and other, matters that come up before it. A good deal of its business is, therefore, transacted by these Parliamentary Committees. These Committees examine draft Bills as well as the issues assigned to them in great detail, bring together all the stakeholders, assimilate their feedback and advise on the Bills and policy decisions of the Executive. While it is the final product such as an Act or a policy decision that gets greater publicity amongst the public, as it affects the lives of the people directly, the Committees are the ones which would have worked overboard to assist the Parliament and the Executive to get to the final product. These Committees are great tools of the Parliamentary system of functioning.

As Chairperson of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Office of Profit, I, along with other members, did a large amount of work. We examined almost all the Ministries and Departments of the Central Government and reviewed four States. I was in the Committee for around two years, and it has been a satisfying piece of work for me as well as a great learning experience about the functioning of the parliamentary system in India.

You have been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since the age of eight. RSS has both a positive and a negative image in the minds of people. The reason is that people have created their own images based on certain factors. However, if you have to explain RSS and its ideology to the general public, how would you do it?
Yes. I have been associated with RSS since my childhood days as a Bal Sewak. And I must say with my experience that this association has given me a grounding and pride in our cultural tradition and heritage.

I do not feel that RSS can have negative image. It has been working since its genesis for the betterment of our society at the grassroots level sans discrimination on the grounds of caste or religion. You will always find it at the forefront of social service whenever any natural calamity strikes our countrymen. To my mind, negativity towards RSS may stem from lack of awareness about its selfless work.

How do you take success in your stride? What was the happiest and the most rewarding moment of your life?
Success in any sphere means more responsibility and more work. Throughout my career as a lawyer and now as a Minister, I feel satisfied by the virtue of hard work itself.

I am driven by bringing happiness to the poor, the downtrodden and to those who have lost hope from the system. You have to continuously toil with the single goal of betterment of lives of the people of the country.
There have been many rewarding moments in the last three years. Be it providing insurance cover for women in my constituency, or ensuring effective installation of solar lights, which is undertaken through CSR initiatives across my Constituency.

“I am driven by bringing happiness to the poor, the downtrodden & to those who have lost hope from the system. You have to continuously toil with the single goal of betterment of lives of the people”