Jaideep Sarkar
Durban - CAREER diplomat Jaideep Sarkar is busy packing his bags in Thimphu, Bhutan, before heading to Pretoria to take office as India’s newest ambassador to South Africa.

Sarkar swops position with Ruchira Kamboj, his predecessor, who has been appointed ambassador of India to the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan.

Sarkar was born in 1963 into a Bengali household. He completed a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur and a master’s in business administration from the Indian Institute of Management in Kolkata. In 1987, he joined the Indian Foreign Service.

He served in Indian missions in Tokyo, Seoul and Bangladesh and held both political and economic portfolios. He worked in the Ministry of Finance from 1992-1996 dealing with economic relations with EU member states.

He also served as a director in the Ministry of External Affairs, where his work involved managing India’s relations with some of its neighbours, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

In 2004, Sarkar joined the Prime Minister’s Office as a director and dealt with a number of ministries including those of External Affairs, Finance and Planning, among others. In 2006, he was selected to serve as private secretary to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Before taking over as ambassador of India to Bhutan, Sarkar was India’s ambassador to Israel from October 2012 to January 2016,

Sarkar married his Japanese wife Minako, who he met at a friend’s house, soon after his first posting to Tokyo. They have two sons aged 25 and 22.

Softly spoken and presenting a gentle manner, Sarkar communicates fluently, using simple language and choosing his words carefully.

The strong economic, political and cultural links between India and South Africa can only be given a new momentum on Sarkar’s watch as he is passionate about supporting the developmental priorities of both countries, especially in the spheres of agriculture, education, science and technology.

A challenge he is happy to tackle is to get the common people to enjoy the benefits of India-South Africa co-operation, especially in the realm of cultural exchanges.

Another challenge for him will be to get New Delhi to ease the rules for South Africans of Indian descent to obtain an Overseas Citizenship of India card (OCI).

More than a year ago, POST appealed to Kamboj to see how best she could make it easier for South Africans to apply for an OCI card which gives a lifetime of multiple entry visas to India.

Many people have found that the demand to prove Indian ancestry when applying for the OCI is too onerous. Applicants must furnish evidence of parents, grandparents or great grandparents being a citizen of India. During the almost 16 decades that Indians have been in South Africa and through the frequent uprooting of families from settled communities under the notorious Group Areas Act, birth certificates and passes have been lost.

Thus, many families have been hard-pressed to find documents to correlate with the ships’ lists which recorded just over 152 000 migrants between 1860 and 1911 in the colony of Natal.

Kamboj told POST before departing for her new diplomatic posting: “The government of India is aware of the difficulty in obtaining proof of Indian origin through documents, particularly when they originated more than a century ago. A change, in most cases, takes time. I assure you that we have reflected your concerns to the concerned authorities in Delhi and will be in touch as there is progress.”

It is hoped Sarkar will take on the task of making it easier for South Africans to obtain the OCI.

Sarkar enjoys hiking and is a keen fan of Indian movie star Vidya Balan, known for her portrayals of strong-willed women.