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Out & About in Cleveland

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Meeting Asian Diplomats in Cleveland, Ohio

We attended a cool program hosted by Global Cleveland entitled “Global Partners in Diplomacy” in Severance Hall on July 19 as part of the RNC Convention. As we took up the flight of stairs into the hall, we were warmly greeted by a traditional Punjabi message of “Sat Sri Akal Sardarji.” Unbelievable, Cleveland was going global! The greeter was His Excellency Ambassador of Pakistan Jalil Abbas Jilani. It is rare treat to be able to speak with somebody in your native language at an official event in Cleveland. One of the Ambassador’s siblings was the Chief Secretary of Punjab. Before the partition in 1947, Punjab was the undivided homeland of Sikhs, who are followers of Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that began in South Asia in the 15th century. Today, Punjab is divided into two, one half is in Pakistan and the other half in India. Many of the historical Sikh shrines are in Pakistan which are visited by Sikh devotees from all over the world annually. The Ambassador hails from Multan, a very old historical city going back to 6,000 years in Punjab of Pakistan which is also the home of Baba Farid, who is regarded as the first poet of the Punjabi language. Multan is the heartland of the spiritual Sufi movement.

The next guest we met was His Excellency Ambassador of Mauritius Sooroojdev Phokeer. The Ambassador was a former parliamentarian from a party led by the Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth. Mauritius is a tropical island nation in the Indian Ocean very popular with Asian tourists for its beaches and casinos. It was both a French and British colony at different times in its history. Majority of its people are Hindus and apart from English and French, many Asian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Chinese are spoken. It is a popular filming destination for Bollywood movies. This summer leave the Caribbean Islands and make Mauritius your getaway for some tropical fun.

Our next guest was Counselor Taewoo Lee from South Korea. He educated us about the importance of the strategic alliance between USA and South Korea. To cope with an aging population, South Korea, a homogeneous society, has been working on a plan to attract global talent to remain competitive in the 21st century. South Korea boasts of one the best education systems in the world. More than 90,000 students from developing countries come to South Korea to pursue higher education. High-tech workers from India are also making their way there to support product development and IT industry. South Korea also sends one of the largest international student delegations to America annually to pursue higher education here. South Korean investments in America have increased by more than 700% over the decade and they support more than 30,000 American jobs. Amore Pacific, a South Korean cosmetic company, has extensive investments and operations in Cleveland.

The threat from North Korea remains the main concern for many South Koreans. Though China has emerged as the main trading partner for South Korea [USA is the third largest trading partner], South Korea values its strategic alliance with America. Apparently, the tensions on the peninsula seemed to be going down with pressure from China on North Korea.

We startled His Excellency Ambassador of Indonesia Budi Bowoleksono by greeting him in his native Bahasa Indonesia. The Ambassador had been working at a fast pace meeting the local Indonesian community and had arrived in Cleveland after addressing members of his community at Akron Goodyear. The Ambassador was the former Secretary-General of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the equivalent of our Department of State.

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