Indian CG B.S. Mubarak highlights priorities; aims to strengthen interaction with community

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas presents Star of Jerusalem Award to Mubarak at a recent ceremony in Ramallah.

JEDDAH — B.S. Mubarak, who assumed office as the new Indian consul general on June 1, has unveiled plans to tap the maximum potential of social media to engage with the one-million strong Indian community living in the Kingdom’s western region.

As a further step to widen the consulate’s accessibility to the community members, initiated by his predecessors Sayeed Ahmed Baba and Faiz Ahmad Kidwai, Mubarak is keen to establish instant communications with them.

In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Mubarak said he was striving to strengthen the means of interaction through the social media, especially Facebook.

“In this high-tech age where people use interactive tools, we have to adopt the means of instant communications. Now, people mainly use social media rather than going to check websites and hence, we are exploring the prospect of using Facebook as an effective means for interaction,” he said.

Mubarak said that his thrust would be to enhance interaction with community members.

“There should not be any communication blocks. If one Indian faces a problem, he should immediately contact the consulate and get it addressed,” he said. He also highlighted the significance of cementing people to people contact between India and Saudi Arabia.

Priorities set straight

Identifying his priorities, Mubarak said, his first priority will be to further strengthen bilateral relations between India and the Kingdom as well as to serve the huge Indian community and see that their interests are taken care of.

“My second priority is to ensure smooth conduct of Haj pilgrimage and achieve further qualitative leap in the services and facilities being rendered to them. Promoting bilateral trade exchange which has already been flourishing with a volume of $40 billion is another priority area,” he said.

According to Mubarak, promoting cultural relations and enhancing soft power will be another key area of focus. India and Saudi Arabia are two great countries with several unique features and commonalities. We have a symbiotic relation with Saudi Arabia which has resulted in mutual benefits to both countries.

India is heavily dependent on the Kingdom for its energy requirements while the Kingdom benefits from the large pool of Indian human resources, and this has eventually resulted in Indians representing one-third of the expatriate population. Both countries benefit from each other’s strength, and the strength of Indians came from their sincerity, hard work, and dedication, he said, while urging the community members to further strengthen this.

Location mapping for pilgrims

Mubarak, who served as Haj consul in Jeddah for four years, said that one of his greatest motivations to come to here again is the wonderful experience of serving Haj pilgrims.

“One of my foremost priorities is serving the pilgrims in the best possible manner and nice fashion.”

Mubarak rushed to Makkah the very next day of his arrival in the Kingdom in order to review the Haj arrangements, and that was even before taking over as the consul general.

“When I came here as Haj consul in 2008, the scenario was entirely different. We had a lot of challenges, of which the biggest one was hunting for buildings. Now there are so many positive developments that has contributed to improving the services and facilities for pilgrims,” he said.

Mubarak said this year Indian pilgrims would have decent buildings in the Central Haram Area and Aziziyah. A total of 37,000 Hajis have applied for green category and the rest for Aziziyah category. “Before I came, the selection process had started and most of the buildings have been identified. Now the hiring process is going on.”

The consul general announced plans to introduce the Google-mapping like service to enable pilgrims to easily locate their accommodation. One of the major problems facing our pilgrims is losing their way to accommodation.

“During the recent elections, the idea was mooted for Indian voters to easily locate their polling booths just by using Google Maps. When a voter gives his identity number, Google Maps guide him to the polling booth. We have plans to introduce a similar Android application service to help the pilgrims and there has been an agreement with an IT company to provide the service,” said Mubarak.

By simply entering the cover number, the device will guide the pilgrims to their buildings. Even if pilgrims don’t have a smartphone, other people or the volunteers who have a smartphone can enter their cover number and thus instantly locate their building. “Hopefully, we will implement this for the coming Haj with the support of the Indian Pilgrims Welfare Forum.”

Mubarak noted that the Haj mission is keen in enabling pilgrims to benefit from the high tech facilities and services. Every year there are some sort of new services. When we introduced the remote check-in of baggage, the result was fabulous. Before that, baggage handling was a big headache.

In the past, pilgrims did not have any idea about their buildings at the time of leaving India for Makkah. Now before setting out for the pilgrimage, each pilgrim gets an identity card, carrying the building number and other details. They have also supplied with a SIM card, which has all the required numbers in the holy cities before their departure from India, he said.

Amazing experience in Palestine

Mubarak arrived here on May 30 from Ramallah, West Bank, after serving as head of India’s Diplomatic Mission to Palestine for two years. Mubarak shared with Saudi Gazette his amazing experience in the holy land under occupation. “For me, it was a great blessing from Allah that enabled me to perform prayers at Islam’s three holy mosques and did something to serve the pilgrims and worshippers reaching there,” he said.

He added: “Before going to Palestine, I had my own doubts whether I can fulfill my mission and manage things properly in a conflict zone. But when I landed there, I was excited to see the heroic endurance of Palestinians despite their hardships and suffering.

“They are not at all ready to compromise on their aspiration of establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. I found Palestinians as one of the most peace-loving people on earth. If you go to one of the busiest markets, and stand the whole day, you can’t find any single scuffling and any police man to tackle such situations.

“They are amazingly, united people. I used to travel to Gaza. In a family of seven brothers in Gaza, if only two are working, they share their livelihood with all other siblings. Whatever they have, they share. With meager facilities and means, they are ready to share everything. They are service-minded and everyone wanted to help others. Their love for land, parents, religion, and education are remarkable.”

Star of Jerusalem Award

Mubarak rendered remarkable contributions in further bolstering India-Palestine historic relations. Mubarak is the first Indian representative to receive the prestigious Star of Jerusalem Award. Recently, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas presented the award to him in recognition and appreciation of his efforts to support the Palestinian people and their just cause.

Mubarak was instrumental in signing three memoranda of understanding to support Palestinian educational projects in the West Bank. “Of these, two school projects, costing $2 million, are already in the process of completion. Other two projects –equipping vocational training centers and building a center of excellence of information technology- are under implementation. These projects are financed by the government of India. Earlier, we implemented three projects in Gaza. These included a library, which is named after former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, at Al-Azhar University of Gaza and Mahatma Gandhi Center at Gaza Polyclinic.”

Mubarak played tremendous role to strengthen the alumni of Palestinians graduated from Indian universities. There are 12,000 Palestinians who have graduated from Indian universities. They have a strong Association of Palestinian Graduates from Indian Universities. Many of them hold several key posts in Palestine.

“I managed to collect their data and arranged their get-together. They are so nostalgic about India, and whenever there was an opportunity, we were able to organize programs to strengthen the India – Palestinian friendship.”

Mubarak was also instrumental in successfully conducting100 high-tech training programs for government employees after taking them to India.

“I visited almost all governorates and main government offices and explained about the program and how it could be useful. All the expenses, including travel, accommodation and fee, were met by the government of India,” he added.





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