International diplomats honoured with Diwali 'Power of One' awards

United Nations, Dec 12
Six veteran international diplomats have been honoured with the Diwali "Power of One Award" for their work at the global organisation for "a more perfect, peaceful and secure world for all".

The awards were presented on Tuesday here at an event that also commemorated the issuance of Diwali stamps by the UN Postal Administration in October and by the US Postal Service in 2016.

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India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin, who called it an "ode to diversity and multiculturalism", said the work of the honourees reflected the UN's collective determination to promote peace.

The awards were cosponsored by 26 UN missions, the Observer of Palestine and the International Atomic Energy Agency and the event was co-hosted by the missions of India, Belaraus and Georgia, and the Diwali Foundation USA.

Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Phuong Nga, who had earlier served as her country's permanent representative at the UN, was among the awardees from three continents.

The awards announcement said that along with her, the nation of Vietnam was also being honoured for the rapprochment with the US that was brought about by the late US Senator John McCain in the aftermath of the war between the two countries.

As a navy pilot during the war, McCain was shot down while on a bombing mission and held a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

The "open embrace" of McCain and Vietnam helped "usher in a better future bilaterally and regionally", the announcement said.

The chair of the Diwali Foundation USA, Ranju Batra, dedicated the ceremony to late US President George H.W. Bush, who died last month.

In promoting volunteerism, Bush spoke of a "thousand points of light", she recalled and added that this makes for "Diwali everyday".

Belarus Permanent Representative Valentin Rybakov said that Diwali's spirit of peace and charity was in "lockstep with the ideals" of the UN.

Thailand's US Ambassador Virachai Plasai was honoured for his leadership while he was at the UN of the Group of 77 that represents developing countries and is the largest bloc there.

The other awardees were Andrej Logar, the State Secretary of Slovenia, former Permanent Representatives Catherine Boura of Greece, Agshin Mehdiyev of Azerbaijan and Permanent Representative Mohamed Khaled Khiari of Tunisia.

A glaring omission from the list of recipients of the award that honours former or "soon to be 'former' permanent representatives" was Nikki Haley of the US who will leave her post at the end of the year. She is the first person of Indian descent to hold the post and to serve in the US cabinet.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)