H.E Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos,Ambassador of Dominican Republic to INDIA Interview with our Editor-in-Chief Tarun Sharma

Excl. Interview - Mr. Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos,Ambassador of Dominican Republic to INDIA

New Delhi

An exclusive insight into the enchanting Dominican Republic unfolded in an exclusive interview of  H.E. Mr. Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos,Ambassador of Dominican Republic to INDIA,Embassy of the Dominican Republic with Editor-in-Chief,Tarun Sharma

Editor: Being an Ambassador of Dominican Republic in INDIA what are your first and foremost objectives?

H.E:I came to INDIA in 2006 as the first Dominican Ambassador to open a Dominican Embassy in the biggest democracy of the world and one of the most important economies in the Asia region.  Our objectives were always very clear:

  • To increase the political and diplomatic relations with India, taking into account its strategic position in the region.

  • To increase trade between the two countries.

  • To increase the number of Indian tourists visiting the Dominican Republic.

  • Create awareness of our country among Indian nationals and companies as a bridge to access a market of millions of consumers in the United States and the Caribbean (We have a Free Trade Agreement with the United States together with other Central American countries – DR-CAFTA – and a Preferential Trade Agreement with European Union together with the CARIFORUM community).

  • To increase the presence and open markets for Dominican products in India, particularly rum and cigars.

  • To profit and learn from the pharmaceutical, textiles, renewable energy, mining, agricultural, auto parts, machinery and other markets of India and to create business partnership and commerce with the Dominican Republic in these sectors.

  • To attract Indian Call Centers to establish themselves in the Dominican Republic in order to serve the Hispanic market in the USA having the advantage of our position in the top 10 in telecommunications in the world.

  • Through India, to strengthen diplomatic relations with South Asia.

Editor: INDIA is a country rich of culture, who do correlate your country’s culture with the current country’s diaspora and vividness where you are serving as an ambassador?

H.E:As India, the Dominican Republic is a country with a high number of emigrants. In fact, we are among the top 5 countries with regard to net migration.

The migration of Dominicans to the United States and Europe create a lot of opportunities, but also challenges to the country, both at the economic, social and cultural level.

60% of the population has a member of the family outside the country and more than half receive money on a regular basis.

The remittances of the Dominican diaspora therefore contribute very significantly to the country’s economy.  This also makes the country depend considerably on the money that the emigrants send to their families. In fact, remittances constitute approximately 10% of the country’s GDP, while 40% of Dominican families receive significant financial contributions from family members abroad. Many Dominican families depend on such remittances to make their ends meet.

India has the world’s second largest Diaspora (next to China). The overseas Indian community estimated at over 25 million is spread across every major region in the world. The contribution of the Indian diaspora to India’s economy and society is a matter of great pride and achievement for Indians.

According to the World Bank report, India with the US$69 billion topped the list of countries receiving remittances in 2012, followed by China (US$60 billion). They also contribute knowledge of the world, international networks, new ideas, technologies and markets to their homeland. With the support of its diaspora, India has become a world leader in business process outsourcing, information technology and pharmaceuticals.

The Indian diaspora is estimated to generate an annual income equal to about 25% of India’s GDP.

I think the most negative effect of emigration and diaspora is the brain drain. But emigration and the diaspora can also represent challenges to society and the culture of the country of origin. When the emigrants return home they come with a different way of live, cultural interest and customs adopted from the country where they were living, not necessarily bad but that undermine the original country’s culture and customs and sometimes create two different societies between citizens of the same country.

Editor: What are the common factors you find here in INDIA vis a vis your origin place?

H.E:I believe that Dominican Republic and India are very similar in many ways: we are countries with color and diversity, with a population naturally hospitable, which love music and dancing and are genuinely happy people.

Our family structures are very similar. I remember when I first saw the movie “Monsoon Wedding”  years before living in India and I could not help thinking of how similar to our culture is all the drama behind a wedding.

If you look very careful about the food habits of the two countries, despite chillies and some spices, our diet is based on rice and beans too, including lentils, and chicken for the non-veg.

We are facing the same kind of challenges, of course taking into account the difference in scale between the two countries: poverty and illiteracy are the major ones. In both countries the violence against women is a big problem that is rising to shocking scales. I hope the growing conscience from civil society will help address this serious problem of both our countries. It is a responsibility of government, but not government alone.  Fundamentally violence against women is a deeply rooted cultural problem of both India and the Dominican Republic.


Editor:Please tell us something on the challenges you face in INDIA as an Ambassador and advisable solution to it.

H.E:At the diplomatic level, when I first arrived in India, 7 years ago, I did not feel that India had a real interest in strengthening ties with the Latin-American countries, except of course with the big Latin countries of Brazil and Mexico.

In the 7 years I have been here I have seen positive changes: more interest, more high level visits, more cooperation, and more exchanges.

However, on these seven years that the Latin-American countries have increased their presence in India – from 10 to 18 representations at the moment – India only has opened recently a new representation in Guatemala. There are still 6 countries that the Indian government has not reciprocated yet.

Latin-American countries are looking at India as a major market for investment, trade and cooperation at all levels, however I believe that India still hesitates to consider the countries in the region, especially the smaller like mine, as partners that have a lot to offer in terms of commercial exchange. But things are definitely getting better and changing positively.

At the personal level my biggest challenge has been to adapt the palate to the strong flavors of Indian food.Gamal1545.jpg

H.E: Please share some important ties between INDIA and the Dominican Republic for which you have played a major role.

Editor: Since the opening of our Embassy in 2006 we have been able to organize many high level state visits in both countries, such as the official visit of our former President H.E. Dr. Leonel Fernandez in 2011, who came to India with a delegation of 65 members, composed by many Ministers and important businessmen and industrialists of our country.

We have also organized the official visit to India of our Minister of External Affairs and the official visits of the Minister of Export and Investment; the Minister of Environment, New and Renewable Energy; the Minister of Science and Technology, and the Minister of Transportation and Public Development, as well  as Members of  our Parliament.

In Dominican Republic, we received the official visit of two former Ministers of State for External Affairs in two different occasions: The first one was the former Minister of State Mr. Anand Sharma, in 2007. The second one was in 2010, when we received the visit of the former Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. Shashi Taroor.

The last visit from members of the Government of India to our country was in 2012. We received Mr. Ganaphati, Former Secretary West, MEA and Mr. Dammu Ravi, Joint Secretary for Latin America MEA, who attended the inauguration of our new President H.E. Mr. Danilo Medina.

At the multilateral level in the region, we participated in FEALAC, India- SICA, India-CELAC meetings.

Among the Agreements and MOUs that we have been able to sign are the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement, which consolidates and expands the friendly ties and reciprocal understanding between the two countries and contributes to economic and social development. Also an agreement has been negotiated between the Civil Aviation Authorities of both countries, enabling new air routes and services between our countries and through third countries.

A Cultural Agreement which promotes the exchange of cultural activities is on the works.

Other agreements are in the final steps of revision, such as: Agreement for Judicial Assistance in Criminal Matters, Exchange of Information and Double Taxation, Cooperation Agreement in the Film & Broadcast Industry, Cooperation Agreement in the Area of MSMEs and Cooperation Agreement in Science and Technology.

Editor:What are the latest INDO-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC bilateral ties which can augment INDIA’s export stream? 

H.E:Despite that the Dominican Republic has such a small population compared to India, we have access to more than 878 million consumers through our different FTA and Preferential Agreements with the United States, Caribbean, Central America and Europe. Therefore, we promote the establishment of Indian companies in our Special Economic Zones (SEZ) to produce or finish Indian products in order to export them to the region.

After the opening of the Embassy and the development of the political and economic relations, we are now receiving more business delegations from the Dominican Republic to India, who participate in many international fairs and/or come straight to negotiate with many Indian companies in order to purchase many products including pharmaceuticals, textiles, leather, biscuits, frozen goods, rubber, machinery, auto parts, steel bars, jewelry, and others.

Editor: What’s your retrospective on INDIA’s political system?

H.E: It is admiring that free and fair elections, free press and an energetic civil society all add to create a vital Indian democracy. However there are also important challenges and shortcomings to the Indian democracy as in any other in a developing world. The political democracy doesn’t have a corresponding economic and social dimension. The lack of decent work and lack of access to basic health and education, sanitation and nutrition for the vast majority of the Indian population represent great barriers to real democracy and freedom. Corruption is a big problem not only in a developing world and political bureaucracy is a barrier to development. We have similar challenges in my own country, the Dominican Republic. But to address these challenges is not only the responsibility of the government. National elites, including in the private and corporate sectors also have key roles to play.

In the seven years as Ambassador in India I am been amazed about how this country have grown and changed in many different ways in such a short time, that I don’t have any doubts India will face these challenges with the same vitality and strong will that characterize it through history.

Editor: Your valuable message for our visitor’s.

H.E: Come and visit Dominican Republic.

 New Delhi,September 24,2013

Author: sarkarimirror