I was talking to some important people from government of India and they asked me: “Why don’t you write something about India? We will pay you a lot if you say that India has less COVID cases than Croatia.”
”I like my country, but not as much as money” Did I say that or someone from Croatian parliament?
I have contacted the Embassy of India in Zagreb and arranged for an interview with the Indian ambassador, Mr. Raj Kumar Srivastava at Michelin restaurant “NOEL”.
You are a new Indian ambassador in Zagreb. You play guitar, speak 4 languages but you are still not as famous as your wife. Her mother is a famous singer in India and her cousin is author of the book Slumdog Millionaire. How did she react when she heard that your next job will be in Croatia? Did she ever say: ”I will not go to this country! This is your KARMA, not mine! I like curry, not sarma. You are a really bad man if you take me there!”?
I am blessed to have my better half Lakshmi in my life, who has not only married me but maried my profession too. She is an accomplished Diplomat in her own right and true representative of Indian values and traditions. Our diplomatic assignments have come to us, not the other way round. We try to make the best out of given circumstances as that is the only choice we human beings have – “of making the best of the present moment”. Human life is all about experiencing it. Deeper the experience, richer it makes us in terms of true happiness. Croatia is a naturally blessed country with so much diversity packed in manageable distances, no wonder you get more than one fifth of your GDP from tourism. So we are so happy to be here in your blessed environment. As India is making itself globalized with people as its main focus, we have a great task ahead to connect more and more people of our two countries. The developmental opportunities that would emerge out of these connections are the main objectives of today’s Diplomacy. In short, “New India” believes in D4D – Diplomacy for Development.
It was really cold outside so Mr. Raj ordered warm whiskey cocktail and I sad to waiter to make one for mo too but to look more muscle and not like a tea pot.
What is the secret of Indian education and economy? You have 20 nuclear power plants, strong IT sector, pharmaceutic industry, food industry, automobile industry… How do you produce so many smart IT people and how do you stimulate new startups and entrepreneurs? Even Croatia is importing Indian workers. Maybe we could exchange knowledge. We teach our kids in school about God and holly Bible 🙂
There is no secret here. India is a transparent democracy, that is maturing day by day. Voters in India have started rewarding the politicians who focus on development and deliver it. Our Constitution begins with “We the people…” and our Government today is placing all its focus on this aspect of our core strength – “People”. People focused governance leads to inclusive economic growth supported by equitable and fair globalisation. In the times of pandemic Prime Minister Modi gave the motto to the people of India to make India “Self-reliant”.
We have 0% taxes for startups. PM Modi says “I see startups, technology and innovation as exciting and effective instruments for India’s transformation.” Startup India, launched in year 2016, is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, intended to build a strong eco-system for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country that drives sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities. GoI’s Action Plan addresses all aspects of the Startup ecosystem to accelerate spreading of the Startup movement: From digital/ technology sector to a wide array of sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, social sector, healthcare, education, etc.; and From existing tier 1 cities to tier 2 and tier 3 citites including semi-urban and rural areas. The Action Plan provides: Simplification and Handholding; Funding Support and Incentives; Industry-Academia Partnership and Incubation. Even in times of pandemic Indian startups have generated investments of over USD 10 billion in over 1200 deals in year 2020.
In less than a year’s time India has proven its known strength also in healthcare sector to the whole world but again India has maintained the humanity at its core focus and not the profit motive, when it produced and distributed the vaccines. Our Government underscored that the vaccine should not only be “available” but it should also be “accessible” and “affordable”.
India would be celebrating India@75 on 15 August 2022 when we would hope to be called “New India”. Let me give you a DIGEST to understand the “New India” – it is all about D (Democracy, Demography & Demand), I (Infrastructure, Industry & Innovation), G (Governance, Growth & Globalisation), E (Economy, Energy & Environment), S (Speed, Scale & Sensitivity), T (Trade, Technology & Talent). There is a much simpler key to all this – “We the people…”. Empower the people and see the magic.
Before my next question I wanted to impress Mr. Raj. I said to the waither: ”Give me something most expensive! Give me one potato soup and some fish finger food.
You are not just promoter of India, you are also promoting Croatia. How do you promote your country in Croatia and where do you see business opportunities between our countries? For example, if we would like to export Croatian wines to India, our production is too small just for one of your cities, and to produce for the whole country is SF for us.
Croatian companies should look India as Europe both in terms of size as well as opportunities. When you go to do business in Austria you don’t get paralyzed by the size of Europe. Similarly when you export to a city or state in India, you should not get mesmerized by the size of India. New India is no more complex for businesses – Red-Tape has given place to Red-Carpet already in India. Croatian wines are world class, same is true of products of your niche technology companies in different areas of opportunities in India. Some Croatian companies like Infobip, Rimac, Altpro, Koncar are already harnessing them, others would do the same with reducing information gap.
Only someone without diplomatic experience could order beefsteak during the interview with Indian ambassador. I sad to Mr. Raj: ”I know that cow is sacred animal in India, but can we pretend that this didn’t happen? No one will know?” I was really surprised with his answer: ”In ancient Hindu texts, the cow appears as “Kamdhenu” or the divine cow, which fulfils all desires. Its horns symbolize the gods, its four legs, the ancient Hindu scriptures or the “Vedas” and its udder, the four objectives of life, including material wealth, desire, righteousness and salvation, but we are now in Croatia and not in India. You can order what ever you want. I don’t have a problem with this.” I was so happy that I asked him: ”Would you like one?”, but he sad: ”I would rather eat fish :)”
I’m not a conspiracy theorist or flat earthier but I really like math, and math says that even with these fabricated COVID numbers, only 0.024% people in the whole world died from Covid in 2020. and we didn’t have a vaccine. Those are not Pandemic numbers. Why did we destroy our lives and economy because of the flu? In BIH everything is open, no one wears a mask and in Croatia, people are partying every weekend in open and private closed spaces without masks and no one is dying. How is this possible?
Covid-19 has become the crisis of our lifetime. The biggest challenge it has brought in front of us is of lack of transparency and reliability. That’s why Government of India has addressed these two challenges as the core of this pandemic. We need to be self-reliant and transparent in order to face this and future similar challenge. We need to learn continuously what went right and what was understood wrongly but in all this the transparent communication with the people, is the key. Finding solutions which are fair and equitable would always be challenging but with open mind and clear communication, governments can create faith among its people about their actions. Government of India could manage the seemigly unmanageable crisis with lot of confidence because these clear strategies where we could find the balance between the seemingly conflicting paths for better health and better economy.
Gastro interview without wine would be like Corona without PR (just a regular flu).
I was in India in GOA and I can’t wait to come back there. Amazing food, nature, people… I think most Croatians and people around the world have a wrong perception of India. It’s a really beautiful country.
I have few tourism questions for you:
a. When is the best time to visit India?
Please see the Spring edition of Place2Go Croatian Magazine, India is fast changing. We are making India not only better in “Ease of doing Business” but “Ease in Living” as well. Tourists in India can have variety of life enrichening experiences depending upon time and mood. I always answer the typical question “what is the good time to visit India” by “you tell me the time and I would tell you many places in India for that time”.
b. Whole world is crazy because of this COVID situation. How will we travel to India this year? Will we need a PCR test, COVID passports, a mask on our face if we want to enter the country? Will you be more flexible to attract more tourists this year? I would like to visit India this year but I would not like to live in a society where we are forcing healthy people to take drugs so they could travel. Everything that is happening now reminds me of George Orwell 1984.
As you can expect from an Digitally Advanced nation, we have issued a one page algorithm for the International arrivals into India on 17 Feb 2021 which can be seen at
We have to live the the current realities of our times, with these norms, in order to ensure that we can start living lives more comfortably sooner than later. Patience is the key. Life needs to be lived here right now and not in our dreamy wonderlands.
c. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a famous Bollywood movie about 3 childhood friends, who reunite for a three-week road trip to Spain. The year after its release 60,444 Indians visited Spain. Maybe Croatian government should invest in Bollywood movies in Croatia to attract tourists from India? It’s 1,3 billion market and we are doing something wrong if we are not taking their money for sun and the sea experience. How should we promote ourselves in India and what have India done to improve their tourism?
That’s a good example to follow for Croatian Tourism promotion agencies, you need to tell them as I keep doing. India propomotes its tourism by first of all, making our attractive destinations more comfortable by improving tourist infrastructure; secondly, by giving the primacy to the human experience aspect of tourism while designing thematic tourism ideas; and thirdly, by bringing out the uniqueness of each destination from experience perspective. I have met already many Croatian friends who go to India regularly and everytime they come back enriched in their lifetime experiences.
d. You play Golf and Croatia is not a famous Golf destination. If I start wearing red pants and walk with a stick in my hand whole day on the grass, my parantes would think that I’m gay. What do you like in Golf and how much is Golf important in Indian tourism? Could investment in Golf attract high quality tourists in our country and extend our tourist season for a few months more and maybe even the whole year?
If I tell you Golf teaches you many lessons of life in few hours, you wouldn’t believe. Let me make an attempt – One, best golf is played when you are most peaceful and in meditative state of mind – in other words, when there is no one in your mind between you and your ball; Two, you can understand people’s state of mind and their character by their behavior in the golf course; Three, you get to walk in the green nature by default, advised by doctors as exercise; Four, good round of golf is force multipler for your efficiency and pleasantness elsewhere; and Five, you have nobody else to blame than yourself when you play bad. One para change suggested “I think you would not try giving golf a try. Yes Golf is known thematic tourism idea which has surety on return on investments as Golfers are more faithful to. I think you would NOW try giving golf a try. Yes Golf is known thematic tourism idea which has SURELY GIVEN return on investments as Golfers are more faithful to.
Before one really serious question, I gave Mr. Raj two small gifts:
Kutjevo winery – Maximo Oro wine – 27th Grand International Wine Award – God Medal
Katunar winery – Sveta Lucija – This wine (Žlahtina from the island of Krk) was served to president Bush when he was in Zagreb.
I also received some gifts from Mr. Raj. Two books:
”Path a Head” by Amitabh Kant – He has earlier authored Branding India: An Incredible Story. Kant has been a key driver of initiatives like ‘Make in India’, ‘Startup India’ and ‘Incredible India’ that positioned India as a leading manufacturing and tourism destination.
Bhavavad Gita – Indian Bible. This book is Croatian project and Mr. Raj was very proud that he could give me this gift. I can’t wait to read it but this book could destroy my conservative Croatian family. I can already see my mother yelling on me and crying: ”There is only one Bible and that is not Indian. I didn’t raise you like this. You will burn in Hell! I’ve noticed that you have changed since you came back from India. First yoga and now this? I will delete you from my last will!”
Now one serious question: In India you have arranged marriages. There is famous Croatian singer Lidija Bačić. I want my parents to arrange a marriage with her. How does it work? I know you can help me with this.
Yes we have arranged marriages in India, but we also know that all marriages are arranged sometimes by parents, sometimes by circumstances. While all of us are human beings but at different levels of consciousness, again due to our own past Karmas. What may seem to be fine to one may not to the other. You would find your partner in time, patience to allow forces of nature to work their magic is the key.
Is this interview for Flash.hr the peak of your diplomatic career? If it is not, feel free to lie that it is.
After reaching every peak we realize, life goes on. Fortunately that applies to lows of life, life goes on.
Most important question in Croatia for the end – Where were you in 1991?
In a parallel Universe.
We had small desert for the end.
I had really great time with Mr. Raj Kumar Srivastava. We enjoyed in amazing food and wines and everything would be perfect if I hadn’t have a small incident before the interview. Since I never wear tie in my whole life, this was my first time to put the tie around my neck. I was the tie virgin. I came to Ivan Jug before the interview and asked him to help me but he sad: ”I also never wear a tie. I can’t help you.” I sad: ”But this is Michelin restaurant. I will kill you!” Ivan: ”I’m just a sommelier, not a fashion stylist. Don’t kill me please. I will ask my waiter. He will help you.” Ivan saved his life, and I looked good and professional. Noel is more then just a Michelin restaurant 🙂
Author: Josip Novosel aka Vin Diesel for poor people and self proclaimed Dear Leader Joe, a corresponding member of the “There is only one Bible” magazine, a friend to the wealthy, a tycoon and a Gastro snob but above all a human.