Panama’s Indian community celebrates visit of foreign minister

Panama City, Apr 25 (EFE).- The 5,000-strong Indian community in Panama rallied here Tuesday around India’s foreign minister, S Jaishankar, in a show of unity free of any hint of sectarian tension.

Jaishankar, who arrived in the country on Monday, went to a Hindu temple in Panama City early Tuesday for a breakfast of homemade Indian dishes with hundreds of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.

“We are all together as a single community,” attorney Peter Chatlani told EFE, stressing the importance of the first-ever visit to Panama by an Indian foreign minister.

“It’s been many weeks, a few months of preparation as far as the organization of various events,” he said. “It has been a titanic labor regarding the execution, because there are many of us.”

In the temple’s community center, Jaishankar and the other guests enjoyed a performance of traditional dances before the minister made a speech in Hindi.

Attendees cheered enthusiastically at every mention of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the former premier of Gujarat, the home state of many members of the Indian community in Panama.

And as Jaishankar was leaving, shouts of “Bharat Mata” (Mother India) rang out.

Ismael Bhikha, a prominent Gujarati Muslim in Panama, said that he preferred not to talk about conflicts or politics when EFE asked him about tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India, insisting that relations between Indian Muslims and Hindus in Panama are good.

“Thank God, everything is fine,” he said. “We all live together in peace and tranquility.”

Another guest at the breakfast, entrepreneur Rohith Narayan, described himself as “a mix of two cultures.” The Panama-born son of immigrants from Bangalore said that Panama City is a model of coexistence among people of divergent backgrounds.

“It’s a melting pot of races, I grew up with Arabs, Chinese, Hindus, Jews, Spaniard, Brazilians, a little bit of everything,” he told EFE.

Jaishankar was set to leave Tuesday for Colombia, the third stop on a regional tour that previously took him to Guyana and will conclude with a visit to the Dominican Republic. EFE mt/dr

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