Diplomacy and real-politick will blend with culture and business during Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s visit to Poland and Armenia this week that is expected to re-energise India’s relations with these two emerging economies in Central Europe and the Eurasian region.
In India, public attention has largely focused on the country’s relations with countries in Western Europe, but not many know about the unfolding story about New Delhi’s deepening connect with Central and Eastern Europe, a region that is suffused with love for Indian culture, philosophy and ethos.
“These are two important countries with whom we have excellent relations. I think any relationship no matter how strong or deep the economic, cultural, political, scientific and other areas of cooperation might be can only be sustained through high level visits,” said Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) in India’s external affairs ministry ahead of the visit.
Armenia Calling: Cultural Connect
Armenia has a long history of civilizational and commercial relations with India that hark back to centuries. Emperor Akbar had an Armenian wife and rolled out the red carpet for Armenian traders, whose skills and integrity he valued highly. Armenian Churches in India bear an eloquent testimony to India’s age-old links with that country.
The visit by the vice-president to Armenia is timed well as it coincides with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In Yerevan, Mr Ansari will have meetings with the president, the prime minister and foreign minister of Armenia. The focus will be on intensifying economic relations, which have remained much below potential.
Expanding development partnership will be an important priority. India’s ITEC scholarship programme is very popular in Armenia and IT remains a key pillar of bilateral relations. Armenia sees India as a knowledge power and will be looking to upscale partnership in this area. India has assisted Armenia in setting up a Center of Excellence with the Param Super Computer and a tele-medicine project. India’s Kalptaru Power Transmission Ltd. is currently executing a transmission tower project in Armenia. Promoting people-to-people contacts and cultural cooperation will be crystallized in signing of pacts in these areas. “In the case of Armenia we are certainly looking at enhancing greater cultural cooperation and a greater cooperation amongst the youth of our countries,” said Ms Saran.
The Poland Opportunity
The vice-president’s visit to Poland has an added traction in view of India’s ongoing diplomatic initiatives to bolster relations with Central and Eastern Europe, where China has made rapid forays. The overarching agenda in Poland will be to upscale India’s economic partnership with the EU’s sixth largest economy, which is expected to grow at over 3.2 per cent in coming years. The two-way trade and investment are growing by the day. Indian investments in Poland are estimated to be in the range of $3 billion and Polish investments in India are estimated to be around $600 million.
The economic focus will be reflected in the vice-president’s address at a joint business conclave in Warsaw in which top business leaders of the two countries will participate. In particular, the two sides will be looking to expand cooperation in areas such as agriculture, food processing, mining and mineral exploration and green and renewable energy. Poland has offered to set up a coking plant in India which will produce 2.7 million tonnes of coking coal per annum.
The vice-president’s visit will also see a deepening of strategic and defence ties. Poland has shown enthusiasm for the Make in India project, and some joint projects in defence may be firmed up soon. India will also be looking for a reaffirmation of Poland’s support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In this context, the vice-president is expected to convey India’s appreciation for Poland’s support for New Delhi’s NSG drive.
The strategic importance of Poland for India can’t be overemphasised as Warsaw has emerged as the most influential player and the largest economy in the Central and Eastern European region. Against the backdrop of China’s growing economic profile in the CEE region, India will be looking to place relations with Poland on a higher footing. The soaring popularity of Bollywood films and a robust tradition of Indology in Polish universities will come in handy as New Delhi and Warsaw widen the arc of convergence and open up new avenues of win-win cooperation.
(Manish Chand is founder-editor of India and World magazine and India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org), a portal that is focused on international affairs and the India Story. He is accompanying the vice-president’s delegation visiting Armenia and Poland).
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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