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Transcription of Media Briefing on upcoming visit of Vice President to Serbia, Malta and Romania (September 13, 2018)

September 16, 2018

Dir (XP), Dr. Venkatachalam Murugan: Good afternoon friends. It is a pleasure to welcome you all for this press briefing. Before we begin let me request you to please put your mobile phones in silent mode.

Our Hon’ble Vice President will be travelling to three European countries Serbia, Malta and Romania from September 14. To brief you about this visit we have with us Dr. Anju Kumar Jain, Secretary (Central Europe) Ministry of External Affairs. Before you shoot your questions, please listen to her and we will have the question and answer session later.

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar:
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is nice seeing all of you here this time and first of all let me wish you all a very happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

As Venkatachalam already informed you the Hon’ble Vice President is visiting three Central European countries Serbia, Malta and Romania from 14 September to 20 September, 2018. He will be accompanied by Minister of State for Finance, Mr. Shiv Pratap Shukla and he will also be accompanied by three Members of Parliament from Rajya Sabha, Shri Prasanna Acharya, Smt. Vijala Satyanand and Ms. Saroj Pandey and one member of Parliament from Lok Sabha, Shri Raghav Lakhanpal and of course senior government officials.

During the visit there will be a business delegation also spearheaded by CII and basically from different sectors which are relevant to all these three countries. The government has decided this visit to be undertaken by Vice President because all these three Central European countries that the Vice President will visit, they are important on account of several factors like their geo-strategic location. Malta and Romania are members of the European Union and hence they have access to European market which is a very strong point for them and also they are very nicely growing economies. In fact Serbia is growing at the rate of about 3.5%, this is last year statistics while Malta and Romania are growing at the rate of over 5%.

They are all forward looking economies and they are looking for options. Western Europe remains their main area of focus but now with the growing size of the Indian economy and the Indian growth story and the possibilities of collaboration, they are keenly focusing on India and we are there to reciprocate that feeling.

We also have very strong traditional and historical connections with, in some way or the other, all the three countries. So we would like to build on these historical linkages and it is an opportunity for us to connect with these friendly countries and reenergize our relationship and we also want to, as I said earlier, we want to showcase them what is the real India now and what are the opportunities available to them.

Now coming to Serbia, it is the first leg of the visit from 14 – 16 September. The visit is at the invitation of the Serbian President and it is coming after a long gap from India, in fact after the break-up of Yugoslavia, it is the first time that a dignitary is visiting from our country.

Serbia is a country which has announced an unconditional and open visa policy for India like Indian citizens traveling there for short term do not require any visas now since September 2017 and we have historical linkages in the sense that we were co-founders of NAM and the Parliament where the Vice President will be addressing the session which has been organized especially for him, that is where the first announcement of Non-alignment movement happened.

President of Serbia, Mr. Alexander Vučić, he traveled to India last year, he was then the Prime Minister of Serbia so he traveled in his capacity as the Prime Minister last year to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit.

Bilateral trade is on an upswing, currently it stands at around $200 million and there is scope to promote bilateral collaboration in priority areas of interest such as agriculture and agriculture technologies, food processing and science & technology, IT and electronics, pharmaceuticals, education and tourism.

Now recently, I don’t know if it was in the news, an agriculture company in India acquired a Serbian company. In terms of the program content he will arrive in the afternoon of 14 September. In the evening he will meet the Indian community. Indian community is not very strong there, it is about less than 100 people.

I forgot to mention all these are official visits but the kind of reception that he is getting is almost like a state visit although they are official visits.

Next day he will have interaction with the Serbian leadership which will include talks with the President of Serbia, Speaker of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister and then, as I earlier mentioned, a special session has been organized at the National Assembly of Serbia and there he will address them.

The other elements of the program would include laying the wreath at the tomb of unknown heroes and offering flowers to the bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Belgrade. So this was the program element for Serbia. There are some deliverables that we are looking at.

Regarding Malta, the Vice President will visit Malta from September 16 to 18. The visit is at the invitation of Maltese President Ms. Marie Louise. Malta has an interesting geography if you locate in the map, it is right in the Mediterranean sea at the crossroads of North Africa and Europe so that makes it a very interesting and important country. It is a trans-shipment hub for that region and it is also a member of EU and the Commonwealth and it is very proud of its linkage of Commonwealth and English language.

India was one of the first countries to recognize Malta in 1964 and established diplomatic relationship in 1965. We have upgraded diplomatic representation there. Last year we opened a permanent high commission of India there and our High Commissioner Mr. Rajesh joined in January 2018.

Again the visit is coming after a long gap. One important feature in our history with Malta is their very active cooperation during evacuation of our nationals from Libya both in 2011 and then again in 2014. So we are grateful for their cooperation to them and India also has growing economic linkages with Malta. Its keen to draw Indian businesses interested in servicing in European and North African markets to make Malta their operating base.

An Indian pharmaceutical company has established big presence in Malta and it is one of the largest drug testing facility in the European Union. Our bilateral trade is around $210 million but there are good opportunities for IT companies because of their friendly tax regime in Malta.

There are lot of financial services that are taking place, a lot of financial investment that is coming up. So IT companies have a good opportunity to give IT solutions to these services like fintech and all that, to the banks and stuff so that is an important area we are looking at.

During the visit the content would be, he will be meeting the Maltese president and the speaker of the House of Representatives and the acting Prime Minister of Malta and of course there will be an Indian community event there. Indian diaspora is not very big there, around 700 people of Indian origin but he will have an interaction with them. There will be a business event with about 180 to 200 companies that are likely to participate.

During the visit Vice President will have interaction with the President and all and then we have some deliverables there also, so as the visit progresses we hope to see some results there.

Now as far as Romania is concerned the visit is from 18 to 20 September at the invitation of the President of Senate of Romania, His Excellency Călin Popescu. This is an important location and the visit is opportune because it marks the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations and the visit also coincides with the centenary year of Romania.

The India-Romania relations are warm and friendly and pre-date India’s independence. Eminent Romanian philologists, philosophers and poet were influenced by an encounter with Indian though and this found reflection in their works. Rabindranath Tagore visited Romania in 1926 and was conferred a doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Bucharest.

Our economic ties are also substantial, we have a bilateral trade of about $810 million and there is a lot of scope. Romania is very rich in natural resources such as bauxite, aluminum and oil and gas. A number of Indian companies have invested in Romania and vice versa and we look forward to strengthening this relationship by high level political exchanges.

There have been regular exchanges previously also but visit at the level of Vice President is coming after a substantial number of years. Now during the visit he will meet the President of the Senate of Romania who will also host a banquet in his honor. He will also meet the President of Romania and the Prime Minister and the President of the Chamber of Deputies and he will also address a session of the Chamber of Deputies in the Romanian parliament. There will be a business event as well and of course a meeting with the Indian diaspora. So with that I finish my briefing and if you have any questions for me I would be happy to answer them.

Question from In Dino: Aapne kaha ki Malta ke business event mei 150-200 comapaniyan participate karengi, uske baare mei kuch detail dein.

(You said that around 150-200 companies will participate in the business event in the Malta, please provide more details about them.)

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: Dekhiye hamari taraf se aisa hai ki hamara jo program hai wo basically CII ne coordinate kiya hai, to hamari taraf se jyada companies nahi hain unfortunately kisi wajah se. Hamari taraf se maximum shayad 12-15 companies hongi lekin Malta ne jo companies gather ki hain woh jyada hain aur wo different sectors se hain, banking se, financial services, IT sector, pharmaceutical aur wo kai hospital representatives bhi hain because Malta mein hamare doctors aur nurses ki kaafi ahmiyat samajhi jaati hai aur kuch wahan par hain bhi jo already kaam kar rahe hain.

(See, the program from our side has been coordinated by CII and unfortunately somehow not many companies are participating from our side due to certain reasons. From our side there would be around 12-15 companies but the companies that have been gathered by Malta is very large in number and they represent different sectors like banking, financial services, IT sector, pharmaceuticals. Many hospitals are also participating because Indian doctors and nurses are considered very important there as quite a few of them are already working there.)

Question from PTI: What are the agreements we are looking at with these three countries?

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: See, we are looking at several agreements but I don’t think it is the right time for me to discuss them before they are signed by the dignitary but with all three countries we have some deliverables.

Question Contd.: In what areas?

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: In different areas like agriculture, tourism and other cooperation. You will get to know about them during the course of the visit.

Question: You said that he will be meeting the diaspora in Romania, what about the other two countries?

Jt. Secretary (Central Europe), Dr. Anju Kumar: He will meet the diaspora everywhere. Somewhere it is large number, somewhere it is small number but he will definitely meet the diaspora in all the countries.

Since there are no more questions, we conclude this briefing. Thank you for coming. Thank you so much.

(Concludes)

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