SPREADING THEIR WINGS!
Mr. Rajindre Tewari, GOPIO Netherlands
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Issue_96 - 26th May, 2015

SPREADING THEIR WINGS!
Mr. Rajindre Tewari, GOPIO Netherlands

Connect spoke to Ms Sharada Nandaram, President of the WomenCouncil at GOPIO, Netherlands in the 12 April 2012 issue. Recently, Connect spoke to the spokesperson & Executive Council member & Coordinator for Europe: Mr Rajindre Tewari on what has happened since and the road ahead.

What is the current nature and scale of operations of GOPIO Holland?

GOPIO has reached the level that they are truly accepted as the only diaspora association that has no roots in a only a specific section of the Indian Diaspora in Holland; the members and organisational officials have their roots in India, Suriname, Africa, United Kingdom etc. We are also non-political and non-religious. The other associations were typically set up by either people from India or more specifically Bengal or Punjab or Suriname or Hindoe etc. Our operations are nation wide as we work with 2 formal regional chapters and 2 councils focused on Women and Youth : we have elected officials and coordinators where a chapter is not feasible. Finally some of our officials have linkin pin relations with GOPIO international councils such as the Global Womens Council or the Cultural Council. I am a member of the International Executive Council of GOPIO Intl. and responsible for the European region.
What have been the additions and changes since Connect last caught up with GOPIO Holland in 2010?

We have placed more focus on improving political and business affinity between India and the Netherlands by reaching out to organisations and individuals who can make a difference in societal relations: unfortunately the local India diaspora is not always integrated in the influential circles in Dutch society, so we want our influence “in” society and not by swimming in our own circles. So we expanded our reach in the umbrella organisation for Duch Trade and Investment promotion (NCH) to increase India’s exposure as an investment destination. We expanded our reach to regular Dutch circles by implementing a low threshold networking concept called “India Cafe” where everyone interested in doing something with India can informally speak to their peers: this is more practical instead of going to events where there are only formalities and ceremonies organised by NRI’s to get attention from the Indian Mission for receiving awards. We cannot deny that even GOPIO has or had individuals that are focused on their own exposure in India rather than on diaspora causes so we all have to keep focus. We also extend our reach to influence Dutch national politics to increase awareness that India democracy is more than the bad news on rape and corruption as we even face these negative aspects in Dutch society too: corruption is also a almost monthly reported phenomenon in Netherlands too.

What are the key events planned for 2015 and beyond?

As we are a non-sectarian organisation we still keep our independence from various streams of diaspora and try to focus on getting attention for topics that are neglected by other organisations as competition for us with other associations is no tour aim. We work from own on strenght and have a transparent cooperative mood without isolation from other diaspora associations. So reaching out to an integrative approach to increase the exposure of Indians in Dutch society is our objective!

What are the recent key achievements of GOPIO Holland? Focus on Diaspora causes

Providing a platform for attracting Indians with various backgrounds irrespective of their country of birth , religion , Indian state or religion. Extremely complex for those seniors who where active in silo-based associations with prejudices towards each others. Thanks to the independent approach of GOPIO we attracted many people to nationwide diaspora events focused on cooperation among indian associations since 2009 as this was never happening. GOPIO has also reached out to many people who are interested in the role of Indian Women and younger generations in Diaspora society. We even had a female management scholar from India coming over to speak to us at the Rotterdam University in 2014!
What are the challenges that GOPIO Holland faces and how do you plan to overcome them?

The latest generations of Indian are of course born in the Netherlands and have a better qualification to integrate. Although India is still their reference model, their peers come from various origins which is just a addd value instead of a source of prejudice. In the traditional Indian associations where presidents stay on for a longer time in order to get awards from the GOI, we do not have this recognition focused view on India but do want India’s attention for our cause. That is why were focused on involving professionals who make their “careers” in society outside of GOPIO so that they can be our ambasadors in Dutch society not only for organising periodic holi, bollywood or diwali parties but in regular societal matters too. We have also noticed that Dutch society sometimes forget that India has progressed much faster that they can envisage: GOPIO wants to expose the scienttific and cultural achievements of India in contemporary life too like in fashion,solar technology, “green” initiatives of local Women’s self-help groups. Those Dutch associationsm that are involved in Indian social field of independent charity and self help are cherished by us and want to expose too as a positive example.

What is the assistance that you would require and from whom?

We have noticed that India is losing its reach on cultural and governmental level: we recently were present in Vibrant Gujarat in Ahmedabad where I was heading a trade delegation but no Dutch ministerial level official was interested in attending and finally a senior bureaucrat was sent to meet high standing people such as Narendra Modi: guess the Dutch government regrets it as the Dutch delegation made an excellent impression. Most of the statements by Dutch officials are meant to fill in the expected diplomatic statements but no implementation in practice: without cameras and in an informal setting one heards about the frustrations from people not trusting Indian business men: this is sad to hear as it we do not like to hear this but should not ignore these signs. I was invited to speak on January 8th PBD Conference at the panel headed by the MEA Minister Sushma Swaraj. So it was an opportunity to reach out to the Indian Government to use Indian diaspora for lobbying and assist them in increasing Diaspora exposure in host countries such as Netherlands. In my view we need more explicit support from the Indian government to increase our regional exposure in cultural, scientifical and business cooperations. This requires Indian institutions such as chambers to establish base in countries with a large potential such as the Netherlands instead of focusing only on the United Kingdom as the colonial heritage. My plea was recorded in the minutes of the MEA proceedings of which i am proud of.

What are the new initiatives undertaken recently and those planned for the future?

See my answers on India Cafe , NCH or Youth involvement to reduce the long term occupancy of “presidents for life”.
What are the key concerns of GOPIO Holland that relate to the Indo Dutch space?

See my comments on increasing India’s exposure to the Netherlands that is still lacking in practice and a lack of mutual trust! My general statement is that Indian Diaspora associations should focus on the Diaspora Causes than on the Indian Government or Indian Missions only

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