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Transcript of Special Press Briefing in Belgrade during the visit of Vice President ( September 15, 2018)

September 17, 2018

Speaker 1: Good afternoon and a warm welcome to all in the special press briefing in Belgrade. Serbia is the first leg of the Hon’ble Vice President’s visit to the three countries. The Vice President have met with the Indian community last evening and today with the Serbian President and the speaker of the Serbian National Assembly. He also delivered an address at the special session of National Assembly. We have with us Secretary (CPV), Shri Dhyaneshwar Mulay, our Ambassador in Belgrade Shri Subrata Bhattacharjee and Jt. Secretary (Central Europe) Dr. Anju Kumar and I would now like to invite Secretary (CPV) to deliver the briefing.

Secretary (CPV), Shri Dhyaneshwar Mulay: Thank you Pawan. I would just give three aspects of the visit during the last one and a half days. Number one, I would say there is a high level of cordiality in both the political leadership here as well as the general public about what they expect from India, what they feel about India. The very warmth and the hospitality that was received showed that there is a tremendous interest in India and tremendous affection for India, that is number one.

Number two, there is an excellent rapport at the higher senior political level that is also visible. The high level visit between two countries have resumed, this is as you know is the first ever visit of Hon’ble Vice President in European countries after he assumed the charge of Vice President but during the meeting here with the Hon’ble President here of Serbia as well as meeting with the Speaker or other interaction with the business community here one thing was very clear that there is an excellent rapport between the two countries at high level as well as at the level of businesses and people.

The third is, I think, many concrete areas of cooperation are really emerging out of this visit which is also to some extent carry forward from previous visits but kind of affirmation and consolidation of those desire and those feelings for each other to strengthen the relationship.

I just came to remember two quotes from President, number one he said unconditional support for India’s position anywhere be it international fora or otherwise bilateral relations. He was also very clear in saying that please bring more people to Serbia and the country is better than what it looks on the map and that was an enormous statement for the President to make. A welcome, of course there is 30 day visa free visa regime for Indians which itself shows the strong desire on the part of Serbian government to develop these relations but there is a huge interest in investments from India. There is also huge interest in, I would say, developing political goodwill between the two countries.

They admit that the trade is relatively small but there is a strong desire whether it is in agriculture, whether it is in IT, science & technology and many other fields to strengthen the economic relations and of course two important MoUs were signed and other discussions took place.

Hon’ble Vice President’s address at the assembly was received with great enthusiasm, there was a standing ovation in the end and in between a number of applause. So this all goes to show this is an excellent beginning in fact that is what the President also said that this is just the beginning for more things to come. I will stop here and let my Jt. Secretary and Ambassador continue the briefing. Thank you.

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: So friends this is the first leg of the visit as Pawan already mentioned. We landed here yesterday at around 5:00 clock and then we had Indian community reception, people were really excited to meet the Vice President.

This is the first time Vice President of India came to Serbia and then today we had a very nice, although it is an official visit but we had a very nice ceremonial reception at the Serbia palace by the President of Serbia. Guard of Honor was given and thereafter there was one and one talk between the two leaders where they discussed various issues of mutual interest. After that there were delegation level talks. We discussed the issues in great length and extended support to each other in various things and chalked out opportunities for further interaction.

As was evident which Secretary Sir has already mentioned there was a lot of goodwill and lot of positive attitude on both sides to work together and as he already mentioned there were two MoUs that were signed. One was on plant health and plant quarantine because Serbia is very strong in agriculture sector and of course India is predominantly an agricultural society so there is a lot of scope of for collaboration there and we would encourage our agricultural and food processing companies to come and invest in Serbia and tap the Serbian and European market. Although Serbia is still not a member of the EU but they have free trade agreements with EU and with US and with Russian and many countries so that would help us to capture those markets as well.

The other MoU that was signed was a revised MoU for air services agreement because we all realized that connectivity is an important factor for increasing both tourism and trade relations and people to people relations between two nations. So these of were the MoUs.

Visit of the Vice President coincided with the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations which is an important milestone in our bilateral relationship. So this was marked by our joint release of stamps on Nikola Tesla, he was a great Serbian inventor after which the magnetic unit is also named i.e. Tesla and then Swami Vivekananda a great thinker of his time and so this was the achievement for the day.

Thereafter we went to the business forum and business forum was also very well attended. There was about maybe 100 Serbian companies and of course the CII led delegation from our side and could palpate the enthusiasm on both sides and many companies that are already working in India and Serbia, vice versa, they were already there and quite excited about the future prospects and increasing their business options.

Our Vice President particularly stressed on generic drugs so he was saying that there is a lot of scope for Serbians to have this collaboration and have affordable and good quality medicines for them, of course after due testing and everything. In fact the Serbian President was quite surprised that how we are able to generate so many medicines and he was also surprised that how our infrastructure is growing at such fast pace, we are making so many kilometers of highways every day. So it was quite an interesting interaction there.

Thereafter we came to the National Assembly of Serbia, another magnificent building and he was received very warmly by the Speaker. First there were delegation level talks thereafter as sir already mentioned Hon’ble Vice President addressed a session that was specially organized for his visit because today being a Saturday the Parliament was not in session and it was specially organized for him and he spoke very well. He also recalled that he is speaking at the same hall where Nehru, Tito, Sukarno and all other leaders, the founders of NAM have spoken at the first round of talks on the organization. That was very impressive and as sir already mentioned he got standing ovation at the end of his lecture.

Thereafter finishing in the National Assembly we went to infrastructure development project called Belgrade Waterfront. It is a huge and massive project still in the stages of inception but they showed us the model, they showed us how it would be taken forward. It is partnership of Serbian government with the government of United Arab Emirates and they have jointly collaborated there. It is like a full facility, smart city and a very nice project, so that is so far that we have done.

Ambassador to Serbia, Shri Subrata Bhattacharjee: Just to add what Secretary and JS (CE) has said. The focus of the discussion was on two-three areas. Firstly, of course, political warmth, recognizing acknowledging the close ties that we have and further what we can build on the economic side. On the political side of course the Head of State, Head of Government level visit after 30 years.

President Vucic in his discussion very fondly recalled his previous visit and the kind of progress he has seen in Gujarat because he visited Gujarat last year for the Vibrant Gujarat summit and he also had very fond words for the initiatives taken by our Prime Minister Modi which he saw himself when he visited Gujarat and then Mumbai. So he sees India as a potential economic partner and the kind of initiatives India has taken he expressed deep appreciation for that.

Of course at the political level both sides acknowledged that two consecutive years we are having Head of State, Head of Government level visit after a gap of 30 years. So now that Serbia is making a kind of new beginning, economic transformation is doing, India duly acknowledges that and Serbia is very appreciatively taking note of that.

Other point was that our main political issue that is there we do respect and support the sovereign and territory of Serbia. This was clearly stated by Hon’ble Vice President in his media statement and was deeply appreciated. Also as Secretary mentioned on the many material issues they support us unconditionally. So beyond these political issues on economic front few areas are identified.

Firstly of course India has interest in the agriculture sector and other sectors like IT infrastructure, some companies are putting money in the food processing sector here so these are the areas which have great prospects and participate in the World Food India 2017 and now agriculture. There is more discussion going on currently between companies to see the possibilities of agriculture production in Serbia for export to even third countries because Serbia has active FTA with Russia, Turkey, Central Asian market as well as the EU market. So any agriculture produce here will have a duty free access so some of the Indian companies are in discussion with that. The agreement that we signed today in plant protection and cooperation will certainly help to promote this sector.

In other areas such as pharma we spoke and JS (CE) very clearly mentioned about it. Movie production could be another area. Already some Indian companies have tied up with Serbian companies. Embassy of India group that created infrastructure called IT Park also has other initiatives, movie production can be done in Serbia.

In the tourism sector, I would say post tourism some Indian companies were part of the CII delegation are bringing students from India, a large 16-17 hundred students who spend some time in Serbia and Serbia is very strong in sports activity, they have the renowned tennis stars, football. Sports sector is large here so this is another area where we can collaborate.

In the areas of parliamentary thing we have already mentioned that after a long time we have a visit and other point that was mentioned that Marshal Tito also addressed Indian parliament in 1954. So he specifically mentioned, there have been cases of both parliamentarians having the opportunity of listening to the leadership so in his speech he mentioned that it is the part of continuation of the link that we have.

There is a India friendship group in Serbian parliament. So their speaker talked about the possibility of reviving those links and learning from each other’s expertise and of course the Belgrade water project was very special interest to our Vice President because he was Urban Development Minister so he took very keen interest and learned how Serbia is proceeding.

Question: Dono deshon ke beech mei bahut achchhe sambandh rahe hain ab tak lekin jo person to person engagement hai woh kam kyo hai aur logon ke beech mein jo dwipaksheey vyapar hai wo kyon nahi badh paa raha hai?

(Relations between both the countries have been good but why is the person to person engagement is at such low level and why is it that bilateral trade has not been able to increase?)

Secretary (CPV), Shri Dhyaneshwar Mulay: Jo aaj ki vaarta aur samvaad hua usase mujhe lagta hai ki yahan par Bharat ki jo doori hai wo abhi bhi logon ko thodi khalti hai aur Bharat mei Serbia ke baare mein jaankaari ka kaafi abhaav hai. Ye main samajhata hoon ki do mahatvapoorn antar hain aur ye antar agar hum tai kar paayein to goodwill jo hai, ek doosare ke liye, uski koi kami nahi hai. Dono hi jagah par, na Bharat mein na yahan par hai. Ek tarah se aaj seedha air-link nahi hai uske liye bhi mere khayaal se prayaas honge bhavishya mein to usase bhi aane-jaane mei sahooliyat ho to isiliye hum air services agreement ko mahatvapoorn maante hain ki usase agar aage badhey to bahut achchha rahega.

Baaki aap jaante hain ki itihaas kaafi alag raha hai yahan par pichhale kuch dashakon mein, abhi usase ubhara hai aur jisko bolte hain na ki outward looking yaani achchhi partnership ki khoz mein hai. To Bharat, uski aabaadi, uska market, technology, IT ki pragati ye sab dekhkar unko Bharat se kaafi apekshyaien hain. President ne do-teen baar kaha ki ek-doosare ke prati hamari apekshayein bahut unchi hain.

(The talks and discussions that we had today gave me an inkling that distance between Serbia and India plays a spoilsport and another thing is lack of information about Serbia in India. In my opinion these are the two major gaps and if we are able to fill these gaps as there is no dearth of goodwill for each other at both sides be it India or Serbia. There is no direct air link and that is why we consider air services agreement so important. We are hope that by moving ahead in this direction we will be able fill this gap.

Secondly you are aware that the history of last thirty years here has been quite different and they have just come out of that and now they are outward looking for partnerships. So they have a lot of expectation from India especially its population, its market, technology and its progress in IT. As the President also said quite a few times that we have high expectations from each other.)

Question: My question is related to agriculture. Since Serbia is largely dependent on agriculture and government of India has a major focus on agriculture whether it crop insurance scheme or all the schemes that are there, what can India take back from Serbia because even in the local area market, everywhere food processing and agriculture seed supply, I could witness that in the market. So what could India take back home especially in terms of agriculture?

Ambassador to Serbia, Shri Subrata Bhattacharjee: We have certain amount of commonalities and complementarities with Indian and Serbian agriculture sector. So from the complementary side I think there is scope for export to our country, they are trying to export to India. India can export things like mangoes. So private companies in engagement over those.

What government is doing, it is creating and facilitating a framework, a platform to signing the agreement so private parties can engage there and have greater trade in these areas. Other than this we have is like ITEK scholarships that we are giving, agriculture scholarship could be one area. I am sure they can learn from that. India also has a rich agriculture research so they can learn from that. They have a vast tract of land. Indian private companies are keen to get involved and start producing. So this is also where India can learn. So certain agriculture commodity can be exported to India, not only to third and neighboring countries but also to India. So these are some ways agriculture sector can have closer cooperation both in the government as well as in the private sector.

Question: Indian community ke log bahut kam hain yahan par, main tourism ki baat karunga. Tourism mein hamne dekha, subah hi Vice President saahab ne baat kari aur kaha ki tourism sector mein aagey badha ja raha hai. Kya aapko lagta hai aise kuch factors hain ya pichhale dinon mein aisa kuch hua hai, demonetization ki baat karein, jisko lekar tourism sector mein is taraf rujhaan kam hua hai, kuch aise factors hain jinse in cheezon par asar pada hai?

(India community in Serbia is very less. We have seen Vice President talking about tourism and that we are moving ahead in that sector. Do you think there are certain factors or something that has happened in last few years, if we talk about demonetization because of which the tourism sector is a lot less inclined towards this area, are there any such factors?)

Secretary (CPV), Shri Dhyaneshwar Mulay: Main ye kahunga ki ye jo rishta hai is desh ke saath, it is a kind of growing relationship. Full potential is not yet realized. Uski shuruaat hui hai. Ye jo do deshon ke beech jo bahut top level visits hote hain usase goodwill bhi badhata hai aur dono Janata mein ek vishwas bhi paida hota hai ki ye Bharat ka mitra hai, iske saath hamein udyog vyavsaay karna chaahiye, takneek exchange karna chahiye, yahan jyada vidyaarthiyon ko bhejana chaahiye, paryatan ko badhava dena chaahiye. Ye kind of a launching pad hota hai. Visits are like launching pads for taking the relationship forward with big steps. It is more kind of facilitating exponential growth and potential. So us hisaab se dekhna chaahiye. Kisi ek Vishay ko usase sanlagn karke dekhna main samajhata hoon uchit nahi hai.

(I would say that the relationship with Serbia is a growing relationship whose full potential is not yet realized, and which has just begun. These top level visits between two countries enhance the goodwill and it also increases the trust between the two sides which makes people think that is a friend country of India and we should explore business opportunities, exchange technologies, send more students and promote tourism.

Visits are like launching pads to take the relationship forward with big steps. It is more kind of facilitating exponential growth and potential. So we should consider it like that. Linking it to one particular thing is not correct in my opinion.)

Ambassador to Serbia, Shri Subrata Bhattacharjee: Demonetization ka yahan ke saath koi rishta nahi hai kyonki pichhale do teen saal mein jo kuch hua wo badhottari hua hai. Aur jo community ya tourism kam hai uske baare mein bataya Secretary saahab ne ki pichhale tees salon mein ye jo mahoul tha uska asar hai. India mein jo development ho raha hai uska yahan se koi link nahi hai.

(There is no link of demonetization with the tourism here as the growth is because of the progress of Serbia in last two-three years. And the Indian diaspora being small here or tourism to Serbia decreasing, as Secretary sir just told that it is due to the conditions here for the last 30 years.)

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar:
Dekhiye jaise jaise Serbia ki growth ho rahi hai to opportunities badh rahi hain. They have started looking outwards. Outward mein unko India ek stable aur fast growing economy dikhati hai jisamein bahut saari opportunities hain.

Ab jaise jaise linkage badhegi hamara Sarkar ka ye kaam rahta hai ki hum jo high level visits hain unke through hum attention laayein us desh ke upar to jaise jaise attention aayegi ek doosare ke prati opportunities generate hongi, business badhega, tourism badhega aur yahan par jo Bharatiya pravasi hain unki sankhya bhi naturally badhegi.

(See as Serbia is growing the opportunities are also increasing. They have started looking outwards and they find India a stable and fast growing economy which has many opportunities.

As government it is our duty to bring attention to these countries through high level visits. So when there will be attention for each other, opportunities will be created, business will increase, tourism will increase and naturally the Indian diaspora in Serbia will also increase.)

Question: As Ma’am mentioned about 100 Serbian companies attended the business forum, have we got any concrete proposals in the course of these meetings?

Ambassador to Serbia, Shri Subrata Bhattacharjee: It is not realistic to expect in a meeting of half an hour that they will make commitment for investment but there are already concrete cases of investment as they have mentioned. More discussion is going on. The feedback that we got from the business circles is very positive. So the discussions are on. As some investments have already come I am sure and certain that more cases will also start.

Question: Sports mein Serbia bahut aagey hai aur hum itna tarakki nahi kar paa rahe hain. Technolgoy aur training mein bahut aagey hai Serbia to kya is level par bhi baatcheet dono deshon ke beech chal rahi hai.

(Serbia is quite ahead in sports and we are not able to make much progress. Serbia is quite advanced in technology and training in sports sector, so are there any talks of cooperation on this also?)

Ambassador to Serbia, Shri Subrata Bhattacharjee: Is visit mein to baat nahi hui par ye bhi ek mudda ho sakta hai future mein jaise cooperation badhata jaayega.

(There were no talks in this visit but this could be an area of cooperation in future as our cooperation will increase in the future.)

Speaker 1: This concludes the briefing. I would thank the members of the dais as well as you all for participating in this briefing. Thank you.

(Concludes)

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