Interview to the newspaper «Uryadovyj Kourier» (Governmental Courier) – Ambassador of India, Mr. Rajiv K. Chander
29th November 2012
1. Mr. Ambassador, which are the expectations of the Indian side from the visit of the President of Ukraine?
The Indian side is keenly awaiting the visit of the President of Ukraine which is taking place after a gap of 10 years. Ukraine is an important country in its own right which has an important geo-strategic location in Europe and has abundance of human and natural resources. It is only natural that India seeks to broaden and deepen ties for the mutual benefit of both countries. The Indian side would welcome broader interaction amongst our business communities and like to see a significant growth in people-to-people contacts whether in the fields of tourism or in the form of cultural & academic exchanges.
2. During the visit, there will be the Ukrainian-Indian business forum with the participation of the Presidents of both countries. What are the hopes rely on this forum?
It is precisely with the objective of enhancing ties between business communities and making them aware of the opportunities waiting to be tapped that the Ukrainian-Indian business forum is being held during the visit. It will also serve to showcase the possibilities for investments in both countries. For example, India is undertaking a massive infrastructure upgrade in roads, & other areas where by 2017 India would be needing US $ 300 billion investment. Some of the projects where investments are being sought are the Delhi - Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Golden Quadrilateral (upgrading of roads connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai & Kolkata). Similarly, several metro rail projects are being planned in different cities in Ukrainian companies can participate. In fact, a few years ago, a Ukrainian company participated in the construction of a metro station in New Delhi.
3. In November 2011, the first time in 8 years the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry visited India. In the press interview Hryshchenko said that the Ukrainian president has set him a task to create a political framework for the transformation of India as a really key partner of Ukraine and additionally to increase a trade turnover at the level of 5 billion U.S. dollars. What has been achieved during the previous year?
Do the potentials of the two countries meet the scope of cooperation between the two? What are the obstacles delaying the development of bilateral trade? How comfortable Indian investors feel in Ukraine?
Foreign Minister Kostiantin Gryshchenko's visit to India in November 2011 was indeed an important one. As you have noted, it was after 8 years that a Ukrainian Foreign Minister was visiting India. The visit was very successful in preparing the ground for the visit of the President of Ukraine to India which is to take place in December 2012. As agreed during the visit of Minister Gryshchenko to India the 4th session of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological, Industrial & Cultural Cooperation was held in Kyiv from 30th May-01st June 2012. The agreement signed during Foreign Minister's visit on visa exemption for diplomatic passport holders is already being implemented.
Bilateral trade has grown from US $ 1.93 billion in 2010-11 to US $ 2.86 billion in 2011-12 with the balance of trade being very much in Ukraine's favour. There has been a substantial growth in the number of Ukrainian tourists going to India with over 50% growth in 2011-12.
India imports 25% of Ukraine's sunflower oil's production and we are keenly interested in long term import of fertilizers from Ukraine and are also willing to invest in this sector, should an opportunity arise to participate in privatization of Odessa Port Plant.
The leading Indian business associations have for a long time been expressing the hope that the issue of business visas would be made easier to enable them to exploit the true potential of the Ukrainian market and we are hoping that the Ukrainian side would be addressing this issue. In order to facilitate greater interaction at all levels, the Indian side has shared a visa facilitation agreement with the Ukrainian side some time back and we are indeed hopeful of forward movement on this issue during the visit.
4. For many Ukrainian companies India's market is already familiar. The same can be said about the Indian enterprises in Ukraine. What are the joint projects/companies can be named as an example?
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is present in a big way in the Ukrainian health sector with many of the leading pharmaceutical giants from India having representational offices in Kyiv. It is because of the competitive prices and top quality of the Indian pharmaceutical products that imports of medicine from India have for the past many years been at No. 2 in terms of value (US $ 325 million in 2011) and No. 1 in terms of volume. Given the huge cost advantage in importing quality Indian pharmaceutical products, it would be safe to say that Ukraine's budget would have be benefited by saving more than a billion dollars over the last 5-6 years. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is represented by the Indian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association in Kyiv which has been in existence over the past 10 years.
5. What areas of cooperation with Ukraine Delhi see as the highest priority, the most promising?
We would like to see growth in all areas of our cooperation whether it be economic, defence, science & technology, space, nuclear or culture as we have indeed wide ranging & multi- dimensional cooperation between our two countries.
6. Over the past fifteen years, due to the reforms initiated by the Prime Minister Singh in 1990th, India's GDP growth rate reached the double digits number. Today, the government announced a new global projects that are radically transforming the country's economy, strengthen it. Could you please name some of these projects. What is the possibility of Ukraine to take part in their implementation?
You are indeed very right in that the Government of India had announced major economic reforms recently. The FDI which was prohibited in retail trading except in single brand trading is now allowed up to 51 percent under the Government route in Multi-Brand Retail Trading, i.e. in supermarkets & department stores. The Government also announced that it would permit foreign airlines to buy minority stakes of up to 49 per cent in Indian domestic carriers. Similarly, foreigners will be able to buy minority stakes in power trading exchanges, and the limit on foreign investment in broadcasters has been raised from 49 per cent to 74 per cent.
7. There is an intensive development of cooperation between two countries in defense sector. We have a really good example - modernization of an AN-32. What other projects in the military-technical cooperation are of India's interest?
Cooperation in the defense sector between the two countries goes back a long way and this has continued uninterrupted. The ongoing level of interaction is intense and at regular intervals big projects are agreed upon such as the one relating to the modernization of the AN-32 aircraft. The Indian side would be keen on transfer of technology and joint production in areas of mutual interest. In the past 3-4 years, the amount of contracts signed altogether would amount to nearly a billion dollars.
8. We cannot avoid, in our interview, the issue of the humanitarian dimension of cooperation between two countries. What about the scientific, educational and cultural exchanges?
For cooperation in S&T ten areas have been identified in the bilateral agreement for the period 2010-2014. I am very glad that to say that this is progressing well. Just earlier this month in November, a delegation from National Technical University of Ukraine visited the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka and signed an MoU on broad ranging contacts between both Institutes. As far as education is concerned, over the past 5 years, 50 scholarships under the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation programme have been availed of by the Ukrainian side covering areas such as audit, solar energy, SME development, agriculture & rural development, financial management, English language course etc.
A Chair of Indian Studies has been set up at the Institute of International Relations, Taras Shevchenko National University, Kyiv. A Visiting Professor from India taught a course on Indian Foreign Policy for two months from September to October 2012.
In terms of cultural exchanges, there is indeed a deep love for Indian culture which is reflected in the fact that there are more than 30 cultural groups spread all over Ukraine where different aspects of Indian culture are taught. Recently, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, an All-Ukrainian Festival of Indian Dances was held in Kyiv on 22nd September 2012 in which more than 250 Ukrainian artists performed Indian classical, folk and even Bollywood dances. I may add that their performances were outstanding and many of them had an amazing level of proficiency.
Hindi is also taught at the school level at Gymnasium-No. 1 in Kyiv where it was introduced in 1994 as also in different institutes and universities. The high level of Hindi teaching was recognized by Government of India when it conferred an award on Ms. Kateryna Dubovnya, Hindi teacher at the Institute of Philology, Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv at the 9th World Hindi Conferenced held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2012.
9. Mark Twain wrote: This is the only country which all men desire to see, and once seen, even briefly, cannot look the same way on other attractions in the world. India is increasingly admired country among the Ukrainian tourists. What about the interest of Indians in Ukraine? What prevents the intensification of increasing a tourism flow?
The number of Ukrainians visiting India principally for tourism and also for business and employment has increased significantly in the past 2-3 years. Indians too are keen on visiting this beautiful country, especially when they got to see glimpses of this beautiful country during the televised coverage of the recently held Euro 2012. Regarding the incentives being given to Indian tourists and facilitation of visas to attract them to travel to Ukraine, I am sure that this is a matter that the Embassy of Ukraine in India is considering.
10. And finally, Mr. Ambassador, could you, please, name the most important tasks that you set for yourself being an Ambassador of India to Ukraine.
The task of any Ambassador is to promote better understanding of his or her home country in the host country and to draw attention of his/her countrymen to the numerous advantages and strengths of the host country. High level visits such as the State visit by the President of Ukraine to India in December 2012 enables the key interlocutors on both sides to comprehensively review the progress made in our bilateral ties and to chart the course for the next few years so that the relationship can grow from strength to strength and the peoples of the two countries come even closer together.