GOInternational Finland hosted a farewell dinner last month to honour His Excellency Shri. Ashok Kumar Sharma, the former Ambassador of India to Finland and Estonia. H.E. Mr. Sharma ended his term in Finland, and stepped into retirement after a strong 36 years of service to the Government of India.
Present that evening were his wife Reena Sharma; Counsellor Mr. Sunil Baweja, Head of Chancery at the Indian Embassy in Finland; Raghunath Koduvayur, Head of Strategic Marketing, Tieto; Mohammad Shabbir, CEO of GOInternational Finland and GOInternational Team members, Abby, Anjana, Mai and Jovin.
The small pleasantries kicked off right away as everyone settled in slowly, greeting and commenting about the dinner place. It was a great opportunity to chat with H.E. Mrs. Sharma and to realise how extraordinary she is, e.g. a badminton champion player, as she shone with her humility, grace and welcoming smile during the conversations.
GOI thanked H.E. Mr. Sharma for his dedication and commitment as Ambassador in Finland and Estonia, and is grateful for the cooperation with the Indian Embassy in numerous activities, namely the recent launch of the Nordic India Innovation Forum.
The NIIF as a leadership platform brought together leaders from the two thriving digital economies Finland and India to discuss a wide range of topics on investment, entrepreneurship and co-creation of opportunities in sectors like education innovation, smart cities and fintech. H.E. Mr. Sharma was gracious to deliver an executive keynote during the NIIF Gala Dinner, extolling the emergence of Indian youth and technologies to an attentive audience.
Inside the cosy old bank hall of the historic Salutorget restaurant, the diners were awed by a fun atmosphere, light-hearted with jokes flying around, and yet captivating and inspiring as H.E. Mr. Sharma counted his anecdotes and shared his feelings and thoughts about the role of India and Finland in the world.
In this informal atmosphere, out came the human spirit behind the role of an ambassador. We learned more what it takes to honour this important role between two countries; the difficulties in reconciling cultural differences at times; the travel demands put on a diplomat’s shoulders alongside deadlines from different stakeholders, only to mention a few.
We learned more about H.E. Mr. Sharma as a person too. He was Ambassador of India to the Republic of Kazakhstan earlier. He graduated in Economics and Statistics and did an MBA from University of Delhi several decades ago. He worked for the State Bank of India before joining the Indian Foreign Service.
He has travelled widely with his wife, serving in Russia, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, Canada, Suriname, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. He taught at the National Defence College in India a number of senior Defence & Civilian Officers from around the world.
As such H.E. Mr. Sharma has built an impressive Rolodex of contacts worldwide and is impressively well connected. He has show his talent in being able to negotiate, to win the confidence of the powerful and influence them, and certainly to understand what makes foreign societies tick.
He shared that he reads a lot. We noticed how he remembers well his encounters. He could analyse information and report it accurately and quickly, including what governments do not want to hear. With his quick mind, an intelligent head, a strong stomach, a warm smile and a discerning eye, he has charmed many.
GOI will miss H.E. Mr. Sharma but will definitely keep in touch with him. It wishes him continued years of success ahead, in his many activities he will certainly be engaged in around the world.
GOI hopes to continue its cooperation with the Embassy of India in Finland for great projects ahead. GOI is developing its Finnish-Indian Innovation Cluster 2017-2018, an 8 month acceleration programme for Finnish startups & SMEs in the areas of Education Innovation, Healthtech and Smart City to enter the Indian market. It includes an India themed track for SLUSH Finland catering to investment opportunities between Finland and India.
GOI welcomes Her Excellency Ms. Vani Rao, the new Ambassador of India to Finland and Estonia, and looks forward to meeting her soon. Honourable Ambassador Rao brings rich diplomatic experience to this posting and some of her qualifications include working at the Embassies of India in Mexico, Israel and Sweden as well as serving in the West Europe Division and as Director in Americas Division in the Ministry of External Affairs. GOI wishes for close collaboration with her for an exciting term ahead.