British Deputy High Commissioner Andrew Fleming(L) Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui(R).

Hyderabad, Aug 30: British Deputy High Commissioner to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (A.P), Andrew Fleming turned one last month! Surprised? The head and shoulders above the rest diplomat completed one year of his tenure in Hyderabad in July. The Evening Standard brings to its esteemed readers – the many faces of the charming diplomat.

Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui unravels the fascinating persona of Andrew Fleming who has seen almost fifty summers, travelled to 113 countries, clicked 2,00,000 pictures – 25,000 in India alone!

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British Deputy High Commissioner to Telangana and A.P, Andrew Fleming is seen in conversation with Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui.

Diplomacy apart, Fleming has made an invaluable contribution to inter-faith dialogue, women and children’s issues, environment, heritage and culture. He has fought tooth and nail for a just and egalitarian society with no gender bias. Andrew Fleming is the most loved Britisher in the Telugu states, reminding us of Sir Arthur Cotton. He has taken to the Telugu states like a fish takes to water. His capacity to assimilate earns him thunderous applauses at functions when he addresses the audience with – ‘Sabha ku Namaskaramu’ or if more appropriate to the situation an ‘Aadab.’ Among his other favourite expressions are ‘Inshallah’ and ‘Mashallah’. He says Mashallah has a special and deeper meaning which conveys appreciation of all good things. He is aware that Inshallah and Mashallah have been borrowed into Urdu from the Arabic language.

Andrew Fleming feels immensely proud of the composite culture and communal harmony in the two Telugu states where people celebrate one another’s festivals. He finds ‘peace’ at abodes of Sufis where people from all religions throng to find harmony and love. He visits temples and churches to bond with the local people.

He admires the leadership of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in fostering cooperation between the United Kingdom (UK) and the Telugu states. He has a kind word for Telangana’s Minister for Municipal Administration K. T Rama Rao and opines that ‘Hyderabad’s infrastructure is ahead of many other cities of comparable size.’ He is enamoured of Hyderabad and expresses thus:

‘I don’t like being here but I love being here!’

Excerpts from the conversation:

On completing one year as UK’s Deputy High Comissioner to Telangana and A. P:

I want to achieve better relations between UK and the Telugu regions to integrate inter faith and community cohesion. I like to invest in people and give time to them, listen to their problems. Everywhere I have been, people have been nice to me. I balance protocol with making time to interact with the common man. My plan is to visit every district in Telangana and A. P in four years.

The key element of my job is to raise the profile of UK. I work to promote trade and business relations between my country and this region. The focus of Indo – UK business trade is on the triangle of New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. But, I believe Hyderabad has many opportunities too. I need to encourage more investors and businessmen to take time to explore opportunities in a region where the two states are number one and two for the ease of doing business. Other nationalities are visibly coming in increasingly large numbers. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have announced they will set up a consulate here; speculation suggests Saudi Arabia will follow.  Furnishing giant IKEA has just arrived in Hyderabad too and I know other internationals are in the pipeline. I feel the interest from the UK is also slowly but surely rising and almost everyone that I have hosted have left with a positive impression and a promise to be ambassador for the region.

British experts can help in many respects as the city of Hyderabad continues to grow and the new city of Amaravati rises in AP. For example, a huge challenge remains to develop a truly integrated transport system. I do not believe any city in India has got this right yet. London, and indeed some of our other major cities, have some of the most integrated transport systems. We also have excellent architects. Foster & Partners have been selected to design two of Amaravati’s (under construction capital of Andhra Pradesh) iconic state buildings. I hope more British companies can bring their world class solutions, be it to counter the increasing congestion in Hyderabad or help create the world’s best new city from scratch. And of course there are many other opportunities of all scales across the region including waste management, renewable energy and so on.

Equally, I want the Telugu people to better recognize opportunities in the UK and understand that these are not confined to London. There are 60,000 Indian diaspora/students in the UK compared to 8,00,000 in the United States. I would love to see more exchange between India to UK and vice versa. There has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of Indian students in the last year. We need to see more Telugu students come to UK and equally, it will be great to see more British students come here. I am trying to make connections between cities and regions in the Telugu states and the UK. I recently spent time in North West England and Scotland looking at possible linkages of which there are many.

Concerned about Fake News…

Fake news in its worst manifestation can cost human lives. ‘Some excellent work is already being done by Telangana Police to counter the threat of fake news. We are looking to run a small project in the coming weeks to compliment this.’

Multiculturalism is one important aspect of my home city (London) that I am particularly proud of. Last November, we brought inter-faith week, a British initiative that started more than a decade ago, to Hyderabad. This was a fantastic experience that attracted a lot of positive feedback from people of all backgrounds. And just as in London, Hyderabad is a place where people celebrate one another’s festivals. This was a fantastic experience that attracted a lot of positive feedback from people of all backgrounds. And just as in London, Hyderabad is a place where people celebrate each others’ festivals.

Proudest Moment…

This is difficult. I am proud of so many things but I feel very proud about the visit of the British Foreign Minister (Asia and Pacific) Mr. Mark Field to Hyderabad in May this year. My small team worked really hard to make it a great visit. We took him to the T-Hub, to see the work of inspirational NGO Voice for Girls, and for an in depth look at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport – the greenest airport in India. Mr. Field also met the Telangana Minister for Municipal Administration Mr. K. T Rama Rao (KTR). We discussed a lot of issues and Mr. Field expressed his hope that KTR will soon visit the UK.

On Hyderabad Trails …

I met a lot of friends through Hyderabad Trails. People want to protect heritage of the city. ‘This administration is doing a good job to restore many buildings. It will be great if the city gets recognition from UNESCO one day. I am impressed with the pace and quality of the current restoration work being carried out at Moazzam Jahi Market built by the last Nizam of Hyderabad in 1935.’

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Receiving a memento…

On keeping fit and favourite food…

I hate going to the gym but I cycle a lot; since coming to India this has not been easy. I like Indian home cooked breakfast like Idli, Dosa and Vada. I like different chutnies.

Andrew Fleming is a doting father and a loving husband. He possesses the gift of the gab. The skillful and talented diplomat will surely pedal his way to further diplomatic success as the British Deputy High Commissioner to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Better days are ahead for UK – Telugu states in the fields of trade, education, heritage and culture!