They made furious accusations at each other, bravely defending their respective countries while the whole world, literally, watched them. But together, they overcame social biases, physical challenges and age-old gender norms to write courage at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.
While young Indian Sneha Dubey was awarded for her fiery speech, it was her Pakistani counterpart Saima Saleem who made headlines in the neighboring country by becoming the first visually impaired diplomat.
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After Prime Minister Imran Khan concluded his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, in which he criticized the world for its silence on Indian actions in occupied Kashmir, the Indian delegation exercised its right of reply.
In her speech, Indian First Secretary Sneha said Pakistan played the role of “victim of terrorism” but instead encouraged terrorists in its backyard.
She also asserted that occupied Kashmir and Ladakh “were, are and always will be an integral and inalienable part of India”. She stressed that this included areas “occupied” by Pakistan, according to the report.
In response, Pakistani representative Saima said Kashmir was not “a so-called integral part of India, nor an internal affair of India”. However, far beyond geopolitical and border issues, it was their personal stories that stood out.
Sneha, an IFS officer in the class of 2012, completed her studies in Goa. She then did her graduate studies at Fergusson College in Pune and eventually obtained her PhD from the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
Since the age of 12, she wanted to join the Indian Foreign Service and passed the civil service exam on her very first attempt in 2011.
She says her inspiration for joining the foreign service was a combination of learning about international affairs, the pleasure of discovering new cultures, representing the country, being part of important political decisions and helping people.
Sneha, who loves to travel, believes that becoming an IFS agent has given her the best opportunity to represent the country.
Sneha is the first in her family to join government services. Her father works in a multinational company while her mother is a schoolteacher.
After being selected for the foreign service, Sneha Dubey’s first appointment was with the Foreign Office. Then, in August 2014, she was sent to the Indian Embassy in Madrid. Sneha is currently India’s first secretary at the United Nations.
Born August 10, 1984, Saima is Pakistan’s first blind public servant.
According to Pakistani media, she is a writer, motivational speaker and skilled negotiator, with expertise in the areas of international human rights and humanitarian law, public and economic diplomacy, trade and investment issues and international security.
She holds an LLM in International Law with a specialization in International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law from the Academy of Geneva, University of Geneva. A Fulbright Fellowship in Advanced Studies in International Affairs from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a Masters in English Literature from Kinnaird University for Women.
Currently, she works as an advisor at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York. She also became Pakistan’s first blind diplomat for whom recruitment rules were changed by the government to join the foreign service.
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