Beyond Charges, India’s Sneha Dubey, Pak’s Visually-Impaired Saima Saleem Painted Courage at UN


They hurled angry accusations at each other, bravely defending their respective countries while the entire world, quite literally, watched. But together, they rose above social prejudices, physical challenges and rubbished age-old gender norms to script courage at United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

While India’s surprisingly young Sneha Dubey won accolades for her fiery speech, it was her Pakistani counterpart Saima Saleem who made it to the headlines in the neighbouring nation for becoming the first visually impaired diplomat.

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After Prime Minister Imran Khan wrapped up his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, in which he criticised the world for its silence on Indian actions in occupied Kashmir, the Indian delegation exercised its right to reply.

In her speech, India’s First Secretary Sneha said Pakistan played the “victim of terrorism” but instead fostered terrorists in its backyard.

She also claimed that occupied Kashmir and Ladakh “were, are and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India”. She emphasised that this included areas that are “occupied” by Pakistan, according to the report.

In response, Pakistani representative Saima said that Kashmir was not a “so-called integral part of India nor is it India’s internal matter”. However, much beyond geo-political and border issues, it were their personal stories that stood out.

Sneha Dubey

Sneha, a 2012 batch IFS officer, completed her schooling from Goa. She then received her higher education in Pune’s Fergusson College and finally did her MPhil from the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Ever since she was 12-years-old, she wanted to join the Indian Foreign Services and passed the civil services examination in her very first attempt in the year 2011.

She states that her inspiration to join the foreign services was a combination of learning about international affairs, the thrill of discovering new cultures, representing the country, being part of important policy decisions and helping people.

Sneha, who is fond of travelling, believes that becoming an IFS officer has given her the best opportunity to represent the country.

Sneha is the first in her family to join the government services. Her father works in a multinational company while her mother is a school teacher.

After being selected for the foreign service, Sneha Dubey’s first appointment was in the Ministry of External Affairs. Then in August 2014, she was sent to the Indian Embassy in Madrid. Sneha is currently India’s first secretary at the United Nations.

Saima Saleem

Born on August 10, 1984, Saima is the first blind Civil Servant of Pakistan.

According to Pakistan’s media reports, she is a writer, motivational speaker and skillful negotiator, having expertise in international human rights and international humanitarian law, public and economic diplomacy, trade and investment-related issues and international security.

She holds an LLM degree in international law with a specialization in international human rights law and international humanitarian law from Geneva Academy, University of Geneva. A Fulbright fellowship in Advanced Studies in International Affairs from Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and M.Phil in English Literature from Kinnaird University for Women.

Currently, she is working as a counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, New York. She also became first blind diplomat of Pakistan for whom rules for recruitment were amended by the government for joining the Foreign Service.

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