Yerevan (Armenia): Mixing business, Bollywood, culture and diplomacy, India and Armenia, a strategically located country in the Caucasian region between Asia and Europe, have opened a new chapter in their bilateral ties by firming up a roadmap for upscaling economic partnership that will include greater trade, connectivity and tourism.
Building upon their cultural connections spanning centuries, the two countries signed three pacts in areas of peaceful uses of outer space, cultural connections and youth exchanges. The pacts were inked after wide-ranging talks in Yerevan between India’s vice-president Hamid Ansari and Armenia’s top leadership, which included including President Serzh Sargsyan, Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian.
The vice-president’s visit has brought a new vigour and opened a new chapter in bilateral ties as the two countries mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Preeti Saran, secretary (east) in India’s external affairs ministry, told Indian journalists in the Armenian capital on April 25.
Armenia Advantage: Focus Areas
In the interaction with the vice-president, Armenian leaders pitched for enhanced engagement with India and cited the country’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union and its excellent relations with Iran and Europe as major factors for scaling up trade and investment.
The two sides zeroed in on agriculture, jewellery, stone-cutting and watch-making as focus areas for enhancing economic engagement. They also agreed on a series of steps, including the holding of a business conclave and liberalisation of visas, to enhance the quantum of trade and investment.
Scaling up development partnership was also discussed. India’s ITEC scholarship programme is quite popular in Armenia and IT remains a key pillar of bilateral relations. India has assisted Armenia in setting up a Center of Excellence with the Param Super Computer and a tele-medicine project.
Only Connect: Bollywood power
In the days to come, culture and people-to-people contacts will remain primary drivers for spurring economic ties. Tourism is set to get a boost with the two sides looking to liberalise the visa regime. Initiating direct flights would cut down travel time to barely five hours, and could prod Indian tourists to explore this picturesque country that blends history, culture, innovation, scenic beauty and pure mountain air.
Given the surging popularity of Indian films in Armenia, Bollywood is set to play the role of a catalyst in boosting tourism. “Armenia has invited Indian film industry to shoot films in their country. A team from Bollywood is expected to come Armenia to explore the possibility,” said Ms Saran.
Armenian president told Mr Ansari that Bollywood films are popular in his country and his grand-daughter was fond of Bollywood music.
One against terror
Looking ahead, India and Armenia also look set to impart a strategic dimension to their bilateral ties by enhancing collaboration on international issues. During the talks between Mr Ansari and the Armenian leaders, the two sides reaffirmed their support for each other’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council (India is contesting for the non-permanent seat in 2021-22 and Armenia is looking at 2032-33).
Against the backdrop of proliferation of radical Islamist terrorist groups in the Eurasian region, the two countries converged on a unified response to international terrorism. There can be no double standards and there can be no good or bad terrorists. The international community must speak in one voice on the issue of terrorism, the vice-president conveyed to Armenian leaders. Armenia, an early supporter of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), was on the same page with India on jointly combating militants and dispensing with quibbles about definitions of terrorism that have dogged the CCIT.
- 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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