My Speech at a reception hosted by the Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Office

My Speech at a reception hosted by the Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Office

Following is my speech at a reception hosted by the Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Office today:

Distinguished Secretary General, Excellencies and Friends,


Within the next twenty hours or so, my wife and I will be taking off from the Vienna International Airport. We have done that many times before, but this time, it will be to leave behind a land and people we have learnt to adore and admire, to leave behind many friendships we have made and to leave behind a little of ourselves. I have a sense of satisfaction that it is in Vienna, the cradle of international diplomacy, that I complete my career in the Indian Foreign Service. Many Treaties, Conventions and Declarations that have emanated from this soil have embellished the world of international diplomacy. Vienna has touched our lives in a way few other cities have done.


On a cold winter day in Dec 2000, we felt the warmth of Vienna for the first time and, as we explored the many attractions of Vienna and the other cities, we discovered the soul of a nation, which had not only enjoyed great glory, but also braved many adversities in its long history. Today, Austria is a peaceful, upright and prosperous nation with its rightful place within the European Union and the rest of the world. The music, the dances and the arts of Vienna captivated us and elevated our aesthetic experience to new heights. The bilateral ambassadors in Vienna are specially privileged to be invited to the Musik- Verein, where some of the best concerts in the world are held. We enjoyed the operas and the balls, ranging from the classy and sedate Opera Ball to the racy and raucous Life Ball. The first gift I received from my son when I was posted to Vienna was ‘Western Classical Music for Dummies’, but I have now begun to enjoy western music without entirely losing my status as a dummy.

We had a glimpse of the glamour and grandeur of the Schonbrunn palace many years ago, but its majesty and might had to be digested over many visits. Walking from the State Opera House to the Cathedral at Stephansplatz and then on to Graben and to the Hofburg, past the Treasury and the Spanish Riding School to the grand statue of Empress Maria Theresia and the Museum Quartier was an enriching experience to be repeated as the moods of the city changed with the seasons, most of all in the spring, when the whole area would be resplendent with leaves and blossoms or in winter when the snow would make the area a fairy land. The tranquillity of the subrubs of Vienna match the beauty of the valleys and mountains on the way to the cities of Salzburg, Innsbruck, Voralburg, Graz and Klagenfurt. The little church in the Melk monastery must be one of the most beautiful places of worship in the world. The wines of the Wachau valley around are no less reminiscent of the manna from heaven. The low, white clouds embracing the green mountains, captured in the ‘Sound of Music’ had enthralled us, but in reality, the camera could not do justice to the majesty of the Austrian landscape. The mountains of Tyrol beckon moviemakers from Hollywood and Bollywood by their sheer charm. To watch the opera on the lake at Bregenz is to celebrate not just the artistic heritage of Austria, but also its technological accomplishments. The world’s attractions, including the Taj Mahal are at hand at the ‘Mini Mundus’ of Klagenfurt. The annual excursions, organised by the Austrian Foreign Office brought not only the diplomatic community closer together, but also made us closer to nature as we skied, ice-curled or simply strolled on the slopes of the icy mountains. Vienna is indeed a diplomatic paradise and we should be grateful to our hosts for making it so.

I have nearly finished my speech, but I have not said a word about India-Austria relations, which I was sent here to promote. I discovered that India-Austria relations were so well established by shared ideals and goals that I had no power to add to or detract from it. Their foundations were laid by such great souls as Rabindranath Tagore, who came here on a journey of discovery in 1921, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who found common cause with Austria in his struggle for India’s freedom and found his soul mate here, Jawaharlal Nehru, who valued the freedom of Austria as much as the freedom of India and, therefore, played a crucial role in the liberation of Austria in 1955 and Mira Behn, who, after serving Mahatma Gandhi for many years, came to pursue her love for Beethoven. Successive leaders of India and Austria had built upon those foundations. Maestro Zubin Mehta has done more to India-Austria relations with his soulful music than what any Ambassador could accomplish. I tried to carry that legacy forward into new areas of endeavours like trade and commerce and information technology. I also imbibed the Vienna spirit in our multilateral pursuits to fight the evils of drugs, crime and terrorism, to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and outer space and to promote industrial development for which Vienna provided the ideal venue.

I have no words to thank you, Mr. Secretary General, for your unfailing courtesy both on and off the golf course, your guidance and support. Your colleagues, particularly Ambassador Nicholas Scherk, the Head of the Asia Department and Dr.Ferdinand Maultaschl, the Chief of Protocol have also been immensely helpful to my Embassy and myself. To the Foreign Minister herself, H.E.Benita Ferrero Waldner, we owe a debt of gratitude for her kindness and encouragement. As I take leave of you, my thoughts are of a sense of fulfilment and joy that I have been privileged to serve my country in yours. May I also thank my diplomatic colleagues, who are here today to join me on a day of special importance to me.

Thank you.


Ambassador of India to Austria and Slovenia 
Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations