Indian gets Togo’s highest civilian award (With Images)

June 16th, 2011 - 5:04 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) The republic of Togo in western Africa has bestowed its highest civilian award to an Indian national, Chander Verma, the country’s former honorary consul in India.

Togo President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe presented the Officre de Order de Mono award to Verma at a special ceremony during the recent National Day celebrations in the capital city of Lome.

The award, which comprises a medal and a citation, is Togo’s highest civilian honour and is given to individuals who show extraordinary merit, irrespective of their nationality.

A west Africa country, Togo is surrounded by Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin. It has a small Indian community of about 250-300 people out of a population of 6.6 million.

Most of the Indians are businessmen engaged in the hotel or supermarket sector. Some have set up assembly units as Togo has developed into a significant centre for assembly of products for export to other African countries.

Verma, chairman of Continental Construction Projects Ltd., was honoured for his “exemplary service to the country as honorary consul of the Republic of Togo to India”.

He remained honorary consul for Togo for three years till the Togo government decided to open a diplomatic mission in India in October 2010 with a resident charge d’affaires in New Delhi.

“It was a great surprise when the president told me about the award. I was overwhelmed at the honour. The award is something like our Bharat Ratna,” Verma told IANS.

Relations between the two countries have improved steadily in the past half decade. Togo credits Verma for playing a major role in building up the relations since India does not have a resident diplomatic mission in Togo.

Bilateral trade worth $232 million took place in 2009-10, while India’s exports to Togo increased from $143 million to $163 million from 2008 to 2010.

The French-speaking Togo, however, has been slow to take up Indian technical and economic cooperation programmes because of the problem with language of instruction in India.

But in the past two years, 15 students and professionals from Togo attended capacity building courses at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and other Indian institutions.

Verma, as chairman of the Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC) - a body set up by the Planning Commission with the construction industry - also initiated moves for a programme of training, testing and certification of workers for the construction industry in Togo.

Togo Prime Minister Gilbert Fousson Houngbo visited India on two occasions in the past two years. Houngbo led a delegation to the 6th CII-Exim Bank Conclave in India in March 2010.

Togo also participated as a partner country at the India-Africa Conclave in New Delhi in March 2011. During his last visit earlier this year, Houngbo said Togo, which is mainly dependent on agriculture, wanted to learn from India’s “green revolution” and its poverty alleviation schemes.

(Shubha Singh can be contacted at shubhasingh101@gmail.com)

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