Hello from Mauritius! Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Hello from Mauritius!
Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

As part of my 10-day visit to Africa, I am writing these lines while staying at the beautiful island of Mauritius. Amazing beaches, wild waterfalls, wonderful lakes, lush forest, unique wildlife, and rocky mountains, Mauritius is, no doubt, most popular destination for tourists from all over the world. As soon as the plane lands at the International Airport, one would easily recognize the diverse society of Mauritius with a striking mixture of people. A society that has deep roots in the history and accepts various ethnicities, cultures, traditions, and religions as a whole. Although, Mauritius is located at the Indian Ocean in the African continent but on the basis of its population, it has special affiliation with the Indian sub-continent. The national flag, consists of four-color strips, truly represents the Mauritius society based on the co-existence and diversity of the population.

Officially the Republic of Mauritius, the people are multiethnic, multi-religious, multicultural and multilingual. According to recent statistics, the most practiced religion in Mauritius is Hinduism with 51.9% of total population, followed by Christianity (31.4%), Islam (15.3%) and Buddhism (0.4%). Mauritius is a religiously diverse nation where different faith communities are allowed to cohabit in mutual respect. So far, not even a single incident of religious violence is reported and this is all, due to the people-friendly policies of the government in the best interest of public. On the occasions of Eid, Diwali, Christmas and other holy festivals, state holidays are observed throughout the country.

Mauritius is also known as an island of temples, mosques and churches. Ganga Talao, a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area, is considered the most sacred holy place in the eyes of Hindu community. There are different temples located on the bank of the lake and are dedicated to lords Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesh and goddess Ganga. On the occasion of holy festival Shivaratri, many local pilgrims travel bare feet from their homes to the lake. The first Mosque, now officially known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was build in the early years of 1800s. The Jummah Mosque in the capital city Port Louis was built in the 1850s and is described as one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Mauritius. The tomb of Jamal Shah, a sufi saint from the Indian sub-continent, is also located next to the mosque. There are also many churches and other worship places across the island.

Historically, the island of Mauritius was discovered by Arab sailors in the 9th century. In the start of 16th century, Portuguese sailors also reached here but they didn’t decide to live there. Before the end of 16th century, Dutch captured the Grand Port and established a small colony. Afterwards, The Port Louis, established by French rulers, is till today the capital of Mauritius. Mauritius is the name given to the island by the British. Hundreds of labourers belonging to British India migrated towards Mauritius to work there. As many as eight thousand five hundred Indian soldiers were also sent to the island. The impact of historical visit of Mahatma Gandhi in last century could also be feel today. He had urged the local people to focus on education to improve their standard of life. Currently, Mahatma Gandhi Institute is established in Mauritius to promote education, specially cultural studies related to Indian sub-continent.

Finally, Mauritius got freedom in 1968 and Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became the first prime minister. Today, Mauritius is an independent and sovereign country with parliamentary representative democratic republic setup in which the President is the head of state, the Prime Minister is the head of government and people elect their parliamentary representatives every five years. Currently, the President of Mauritius is Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, who is in power since 2015. Being first female president and renowned scientist, she secured a number of awards in the fields of politics and science. When I got opportunity to exchange views with her, I found her very humble, polite and down to earth with a commitment to serve mankind. She keeps positive views about Pakistan to promote bilateral relations. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth holds the office of Prime Minister. Opposition leader Paul Raymond Bérenger is also a prominent politician. The political situation of Mauritius also reflects the positive values of tolerance, diversity and social harmony. As far as national economy is concerned, Mauritius, with highest GDP rate in the region, is one of the most prosperous countries. Regardless of their differences, people of Mauritius are committed to serve their beautiful country.

I personally observed that the people of Mauritius hold very positive friendly views about Pakistan. This is quite unfortunate that when Indian lobbies are increasing their influence in Mauritius, the Pakistani embassy in Mauritius is ignorant. Same situation could be observed in other countries as well. Government of Pakistan must appoint qualified and talented envoys in the foreign missions. The principle “Right person at Right Place” must be followed instead of encouraging favoritism so that Pakistani cause could be achieved in the fields of culture and trade. After my return to Pakistan, I am also interested to organize a seminar to highlight the salient features of Mauritius society based on co-existence and would also like to seek cooperation of the Mauritius Embassy to offer cultural and media exchange programs for Pakistani nationals.

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