By Mudassir Raja/Staff Reporter
Carlos Hernandez, Ambassador of Argentina, is an experienced diplomat. He was appointed in Qatar in July last year. He is very keen to take bilateral ties to the next level.
Community recently approached him for an interview via e-mail. Excerpts:
Your Excellency, please tell us briefly about your journey so far.
I am a sort of self-made man, hailing from the country that is rich and beautiful with diverse landscapes and has a unique mixture of integrated cultures and religions.
I lost my father at an early age. I had to work hard when I was in the university. I remember being able to sleep only four to five hours a day having no weekend off. I did my PhD in International Relations and also graduated as professor in Social Sciences from Catholic Jesuit University in Buenos Aires.
After my university education, I managed to join the Argentine School of Diplomacy after going through a challenging and competitive process. I am a career diplomat. The profession allows you to apply your experience in multiple areas. I am also at home in different languages. Nowadays, I am learning Arabic.
I am in Doha with my wife Noelia. She is a lawyer by profession. Currently, she is on leave to be with me here. I have a son, Marcel, who lives in Vienna, Austria. He recently visited us here and fell in love with Qatar.
During my diplomatic career, I have been posted to Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand and Romania before coming to this lovely country.
How do you best define diplomacy? What are its basic tenets?
Diplomacy is the art and science for practising and conducting negotiations, maintaining and promoting good relations among nations, and the skill in handling affairs without arousing hostilities. The goal is to develop countries and peoples with peace. This is precisely what I have been professionally trying to do during the last 37 years and I will be always thankful for such an opportunity.
What has been your most challenging career assignment?
Usually, the most challenging career assignment is the first one. That is the time when you actually have to bring theory into practice — you are confronted by reality and have to show the best of your skills to achieve your goals in due course of time.
Now after so many years and based on my long experience in multilateralism and in bilateral relations, I have decided to make this current posting as the most challenging one of my career. I will challenge myself and try my best to bring the two countries closer.
What are the other highlights of your career?
My career offered me a wide range of experience in different fields, especially during my almost 10 years of being a delegate to the United Nations, the Conference on Disarmament, the International Atomic Energy Agency among other assignments. My being the first Director of Public Information of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty for three years was also a very good experience.
In this position, I actively took part in negotiations for an international agreement in Geneva leading to the establishment of a new UN organisation. It was an amazing opportunity which you are rarely able to have.
What is your take on Qatar-Argentina relations? How many expats from your country are living here and what professions they are in?
Regarding bilateral relations, I can confirm the ties are at the top level. I am dedicated to achieve a solid strategic partnership with Qatar.
His Highness the Amir visited my country two times in last three years and President Macri was also here. The two leaders enjoy very good friendship.
Our community here is still not that large as I would like to have. Around 350 Argentines are so far registered. The number keeps increasing from time to time. A relevant number of them are working in hospitality, aviation, and with different private companies.
Where does the bilateral trade currently stand and what are the potential areas for investment? In which areas Qatar can benefit from your country and vice versa? What is the tourism potential?
The bilateral trade and investment relations are steadily growing, covering different areas like energy, food, and agro industry. Recently, there have been remarkable developments. We signed numerous bilateral agreements and memorandums of understanding since I took charge in July last year. Currently, there are many other agreements under negotiation.
Qatar is also our main supplier of LNG and has strong investments in the energy and agro industry sectors.
Anyway, I think that everything is not related to trade and investment. I am also working on developing cultural, art and sports exchanges. It will further strengthen the friendship of our peoples in the years to come.
I have also been trying to highlight the Islamic art and culture. In Argentina, we have at least 3.5 million people, who are direct descendants of Muslim immigrants, many mosques and several Islamic centres plus the largest mosque in Latin America.
Apart from that, our First Lady Juliana Awada, wife of President Mauricio Macri, is of Lebanese origin. We also had a Muslim president in the 90s’ — Carlos Saul Menem of Syrian origin.
We are also working on enhancing tourism and hospitality areas. Last December, the tourism authorities from Argentina were in Qatar and held several meetings in order to boost this area. The direct flights between Doha and Buenos Aires by Qatar Airways will be crucial. I believe that this will be made possible this year.
What do you do in your leisure? What kind of books do you read, films you watch, and music you listen to?
I have little time to relax. However, I enjoy going out with my wife. We go to gym, beach, swimming, and kayaking. I sometimes watch action films or football on TV. I listen to all sorts of music — from classic to the Latin American Reggaeton. I also like reading books but only in German, probably due to my memories of Vienna, a city where we loved to live.
I am also a big fan of the music composed by our friend Dana Al Fardan. She has created this special touch of a blend of Arab-influenced contemporary classical music which in many cases makes you feel the spirit of Qatar. We are working towards taking Dana to Opera House Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, which was elected by the specialised media this year as the best Opera House in the world.
How would you describe your experience of living in Qatar? What places do you venture out the most?
I feel more than happy to be in Qatar. When I was offered this wonderful opportunity, I did not have a minute of doubt in accepting it. We have so far visited some farms, the Sealine and the desert several times. We really love the Sealine and the special feeling of sea, desert and sky being so close to each other.
What piece of advice will you give a budding diplomat?
The diplomatic career allows you to have wonderful experiences. At the same time, it affects your normal family life. Not everything is shiny. There are also some odd times.
Diplomats should always be patient to enjoy the good side of it. They should be open-minded in all aspects and open to all cultures and religions. They need to be able to profit from their experiences. It helps them in executing their professional obligations such as solving problems and addressing issues like human rights, social development and peace.
For example, diplomacy should be much more active and should be applied to finally end completely the unjustified blockade of Qatar. Not doing it represents a failure of diplomacy.
What is that one lesson in life that has always held you in good stead?
We go through important stages in life and we have to learn from the past to have better future. Something that I have learnt is to work hard to get what you want and never be discouraged if you do not succeed. Just double your efforts and persist with it. Enjoy at the same time what you are doing.
What are your future plans, especially after retirement?
My future plans are to continue working and enjoying family life and avoiding retirement as long as I can.
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