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No beating about the bush.
A visit to Jordan was fruitful as the writer met many merchants there. The 56th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
The Indian government had a bilateral agreement with Jordan whereby rock phosphates were regularly imported from this country and we had a great number of items to sell. This Hashemite kingdom had closer relations with Britain, as King Hussain was educated there and was a student of Sandhurst Military Academy.
He was friendly but tough and would not cave in for threats. He had to deal with the Palestinian problem; because of the occupation and expansion of Israeli Zionist rule, more and more people from Palestine became refugees in their own homeland and had to be accommodated in Jordan.
The west bank of the Jordan River was occupied by force and the displaced people had to find shelter elsewhere. It was Jordan first which had to take the influx of refugees fleeing from their homes. They were welcomed and assisted, and thousands of families stayed in make-shift camps, which, over the years had become permanent features, not only in Jordan, but in Lebanon as well.
No doubt, the Palestinians had also settled down in Syria, as they crossed the land borders, but because of the political system and Syria itself had a large unemployed population, there was not much anything these people could do for their livelihood, as a result of which, they moved to Lebanon. Shatila camp was one of the largest and it lay close to the Beirut International Airport.
Our Ambassador AK Dar was also accredited to Jordan and Cyprus; there was no office as such for the Indian consulate in Nicosia, but we had one in Amman to look after our interests. Consular work was done there and the representative would come down to meet the ambassador once in a fortnight or so.
There were lots of enquiries from Jordanian merchants, and I decided to make a brief visit to Amman. In the few days that I stayed there, I met a number of active merchants, all of whom spoke good English. I expanded my contacts there and encouraged them to meet us in Beirut, which they frequently visited. Engineer Khalifeh Abdullah was one of the regulars, through whom Indian cast iron industry, especially Kajeco of Agra, benefited the most. Abdullah's Indian visit was after his long discussion with me; he met the EEPC officials in Calcutta and also senior people from RSI (Haik Sookias), DN Singha (Diken), Grand Smithy Works and Vijay from Kajeco in Agra. In the end, after his own trial-and-error methods, it was a lucky connection for Vijay and Abdullah that they were able to strike deals beneficial to both.
On my return, I submitted my report to the Council, and this was to become the next book, "Opportunities for Engineering Goods in Jordan", which as published in December 1973.
The visit to the island nation of Cyprus did renew several contacts with buyers there. This small island had some inherent political problems; roughly 70% of the population was Cypriot-Greek and the balance of Turkish origin. There was a separate Turkish quarter and although there was a lot of friendliness and movement, it was always a tense situation.
The Cypriot-Greeks spoke Greek and were associated with business and government jobs/contracts. I was able to meet a number of them and introduced the opportunities for getting goods from India. But the main problem remained that there was hardly enough cargo for stopping over to deliver Indian products in Famagusta, their only developed port. Our efforts to make a break-through in Cyprus were unsuccessful.
Meantime, VP Singh our commercial attaché in Beirut was promoted to posting in Canberra, Australia; NK Nair, the commercial attaché in Baghdad was transferred to Beirut; Sharma, the successor of Ganga Lal Casewa in STC was succeeded by Kamal K Mittal and SK Singh, the ambassador from Afghanistan took over from AK Dar.
With NK Nair's arrival, we hit off well and on his encouragement and support, my visits to Baghdad began in 1973 with frequency, as our relations with this country began to develop on a more serious note than before.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)