Peter Cook, British Deputy High Commissioner of Gujarat and Rajasthan is more Indian than most of the foreign returned Indians and is hooked on chai and yogic breathing. From the beginning of his tenure, he has tried to foster India-UK relations in a very special, interactive, engaging manner involving local stakeholders like never before.
In India since 2019, Mr Cook has been engaged in several projects in the social, cultural and commercial fields. In September 2019, he was the prime mover in organizing a seminar on “LGBTQ+: Towards an Inclusive Society,” where he pledged his government’s support for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Indian society. The British Deputy High Commission has also pledged to support girls’ education and equal rights for women by helping organisations like SEWA and AWAG.
He also planned on improving cybersecurity, solar power and many other industries in ways that would benefit both countries. Some of these plans have undergone few delays and changes due to the global pandemic.
Cook is particularly concerned with climate change, which he considers to be a larger battle than the global pandemic. And he’s working to promote the Chevening scholarship, which is in its 40th year in India. Cook said, “We can build stronger partnerships in science, in technology and innovative businesses, we can see an even brighter future for both UK and India.”
Since the pandemic, he has been dealing with issues like student visas, which are causing considerable heartburn in India. Cook says the visa process has actually become easier for students who wish to study in the UK. “Online learning has improved the education system in a way that will benefit students,” he says.
Talking about Brexit, he says it has become a boon for Indian businesses as it allows free trade and believes that it could bring opportunities for both the countries’ trade.
Another project Cook is working on is the funnelling of aid from Britain to India, especially from the Gujarati diaspora in the UK, who have sent medical equipment to Gujarat during the pandemic. “I’m so impressed by how the Gujarati diaspora has come together to support their friends and family here in Gujarat during the pandemic,” he says.
In February 2021, Cook visited the upcoming Dholera Smart City to lend support to the Dholera Special Investment Region project, which is being developed as a hub for new age manufacturing.
Born in Kolkata in 1963, Cook spent seven formative years of his childhood in India before he moved back to Britain. “What I remember best about my childhood in Kolkata are the sweets, especially jalebis. I plan to go back to Kalimpong and revisit the Sundarbans to meet a real Bengal tiger,” he says.
Before he took up his present posting in Ahmedabad in February 2019, Cook was managing director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Qatar. In his long years with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), he has been posted in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Turkey, Denmark, Barbados and New York.
At the height of the second wave of the pandemic, when hospitals in Ahmedabad were full to capacity, Peter Cook came down with Covid. Alone in the city, cooped at home, far from his family in the UK, it must have been an ordeal. But now that he’s pulled through, Cook credits it to all the good Indian ancient knowledge. “I practiced Yogic breathing exercises to get over difficulties in breathing. And I drank lots of masala chai,” he says.
As soon as he recovered, Cook went off to the verdant environs of Mount Abu, which is quite in keeping with getting life back to normal. Now he’s back at his job. He recently visited Dahej and now is back in Scotland for a few days on account of his work.
Hi Peter, excellent speech. 🙏
excellent speech. 🙏
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