By: Fakhri al-Arashi
Photo: Yaseen Al-Tamimi
On November 2nd in Gurgaon, India, Foreign Affairs Ministers from IOR-ARC member nations met for the twelfth in the organization’s history. This meeting provided the National Yemen with the opportunity to meet with one of Yemen’s most active ambassadors, Dr. Khadija Radman Ghanem. Dr. Ghanem was appointed Yemen’s Ambassador to India in September of 2010. We found that Dr. Ghanem has earned a positive reputation in the diplomatic community. She has worked with determination and ingenuity to enhance bilateral relations between Yemen and India.
In recent times, Ambassador Ghanem has paid great attention to enlisting India as one of the group of nations known as ‘Friends of Yemen’, and she has succeeded in making this come true. As a result, the Indian government has increased its support for Yemen as the latter has attempted to stay afloat in the midst of political crises.
The following is an interview with Dr. Khadija, who shed light on a number of issues directly concerned with Yemeni-Indian relations.
NY: Ambassador Khadija, would you please describe what you have accomplished since taking office as Yemen’s ambassador to India?
KG: I was appointed as Ambassador to India in September 2010, and I began working at the embassy on the 23rd of the same month. Ever since then, I’ve been working here in India, a country that pursues development in all facets of life. India is doing its best to enhance its relations with Arab and Muslim countries. I’ve reviewed agreements in place between Yemen and India, in order to evaluate our political and business links. This has been discussed in committee meetings which have been arranged to discuss relevant contracts and files.
For example, the Indian government carried out a study to determine the feasibility of building a hospital in Yemen with enough room for 200 beds. The project wasn’t carried out, however, because there was a lack of sufficient information from the Yemeni side for the Indian government to proceed.
The Indian government has made it clear that making the project happen is a priority and has promised to send a delegation to Yemen to make it a reality.
NY: As Yemen’s Ambassador to India, what are India’s priorities concerning relations with Yemen?
KG: As a matter of fact, the Indian government’s focus is on oil and gas procurement, as a result of its need for such resources to be imported from other nations. To ensure sustainable growth, the Indian government is committed to having a steady supply of energy resources. In this regard, Yemen is a good candidate to supply oil and gas to India.
Concerning political relations, India seeks Yemen’s support in obtaining membership status in international organizations. For its part, Yemen will steadfastly offer its support for India’s candidacy for permanent membership status in the UN Security Council.
The Indian government supported Yemen during its political crisis. It provided urgent aid at the cost of $2 million through a rice shipment and is now preparing to send a new shipment of wheat at the same cost. India also released Yemen from its obligation to pay debts totaling around $200 million.
Earlier, India provided Yemen with 35 training courses; now, it has been increased to 80 courses in various fields. Beneficiaries of these courses include government employees and Yemeni NGOs.
Scholarships represent another kind of support the Indian Embassy provides to Yemen. When I started working in New Delhi, there were only 35 scholarships available; today, their number has increased to 70.
NY: What is the Indian government’s take on current events in Yemen?
KG: India is closely following what is happening in Yemen. Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Qerbi, along with Indian External Foreign Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, has praised Yemen for its achievements in the first phase of the transitional period in line with the GCC initiative. He also said he hopes Yemen will enjoy continuous security and stability. He also expressed India’s willingness to send experts to assist Yemen as it navigates its transitional period.
India is ready to assist Yemen with micro finance projects, as India has strong experience in this area and a history of success.
NY: Is there coordination between you and the Indian Ambassador in Sana’a when it comes to bilateral cooperation?
KG: It seems that I was lucky to be appointed the Ambassador to India at the same time that a new Indian Ambassador to Yemen was appointed. Before I came to India, I met Ambassador Ausaf Sayeed and we have agreed to be in touch and ready to engage with each other.
NY: What types of services do you have available for Yemeni students who are studying in India?
KG: There are around five hundred Yemeni students in India, and there are others studying in Indian universities at their own expense. The embassy is doing its best and there is a special department which concerns itself with their affairs. Personally, I never switch off my phone and I’m fully ready to solve any problems they face in India.
NY: A large number of Yemenis seek medical treatment in India; why do you believe this is the case?
KG: True; India is among the primary destinations for Yemenis seeking medical care. Many come to receive treatment for various illnesses, and especially those involving with the liver, kidneys or the spinal cord.
India possesses advanced technology to fight various forms of cancer. Importantly, patients are provided with kind and close attention to their needs. Medical delegations have visited Yemeni cities such as Sana’a, Aden and Mukalla, and performed a number of operations while also sharing advice and experience with local medical teams.
NY: What value and significance can we attach to Yemen’s presence at IOR-ARC meetings?
KG: The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation celebrated its 15th anniversary. Three conferences have been held since I was appointed; I’ve noticed that the regional assembly has increased its role in enhancing relations between countries in a number of areas. Most recently, member nations agreed to cooperate when it comes to investing in academics and trade. Furthermore, agreements to protect sea routes from such dangers as piracy were reached. Environmentally speaking, a scientific center concerned with ways to best respond to natural crises was established. In Oman, a research center dedicated to finding ways to best maintain fisheries while also being responsive and responsible in relation to marine creatures.