1. HE Manoj K. Bharti, thank you for your time to sit down with Kiev Check-in magazine and offering this interview. To begin with, can you share with us your first reaction and impressions when you were appointed as the ambassador to Ukraine?
I came to Ukraine from Belarus and had already known something about your country. At the same time, when I started to work here and saw everything with my own eyes, I found that Ukraine is much more beautiful country than I had imagined before. To begin with, the attitude of Ukrainians towards India and its people is especially friendly. People of Ukraine have deep interest in the Indian culture and philosophy. I also discovered for myself that Ukraine is the food basket of Europe. In terms of territory, it is the largest European country. 40 million highly educated people live here. That is why I was very happy and motivated to work here as the Ambassador of India.
2. This interview coincides with the upcoming International Yoga Day on June 21, 2017. In the past few years, the Government of India has been very active in conducting promotional activities globally in the celebration of the Yoga Day. Is the Indian Embassy in Ukraine planning any special activities on this occasion this year?
In September 2014, Government of India initiated a resolution at the United Nations to observe 21 June as International Day of Yoga (IDY). Surprisingly, the Indian proposal was supported by 177 countries which is a UN record. In December 2014, United Nations passed this resolution unanimously. The very short period between tabling the resolution and its passing was once again a UN record. Since then, IDY is being observed in almost all countries in the world, mostly supported by the Indian Embassy in various capitals. The scale of celebration is going up every year. This year, we will be observing the 3rd IDY with a renewed vigor. In Kyiv, a 'Yoga Marathon' is being organized on 18 June at Khreschatyk. Preparations are on to set a record of having 10000 people doing yoga together at Khreschatyk. The event will start at 0800 hrs and after a formal inauguration, a 50 minute yoga session will be followed by a short Indian cultural performance. On 21 June 2017, a yoga fair by the name "Yoga Mela" will be held at Marinsky park between 1600-2100 hrs. Stalls will be set up for various yoga groups in the park along with stall of other Indian customs and traditions like Ayurveda, vegetarian food, Henna, etc. A folk dance performance from a visiting Indian troop and other cultural performances will be held at "Rakushka" in Marinsky park.
3. How is yoga connected with India and what are the benefits that it offers to the overall well-being of an individual? What is your favorite yoga exercise?
Yoga is deeply connected to the ancient Indian philosophy and culture. One of the main pillars of Indian philosophy is practice of meditation for attaining spiritual growth of the human soul. Yoga has the mean to prepare the body and mind for achieving deep state of meditation. Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means to "combine". By doing yoga, one combines the physical element of "body" with the known physical element of "mind". There is also a famous proverb in Sanskrit योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः "yoga chitta vritti nirodha" which means that the purpose of yoga is to control the deviations of the mind. If the mind is focused and body is toned up through exercises (asanas), the human being will experience peace and harmony and complete sense of well-being. Illness does not affect and if affected, it is self-corrected through the practice of yoga. I would like to emphasise that the prevalent notion of yoga, just doing exercise, is completely erroneous. Whatever form of yoga is practiced or taught, unless there is an element of complete focus of the mind, the practice cannot be called yoga. My favourite aspect of yoga is breathing exercise called "Pranayam".
4. How intricate is the historical business and cultural relationship between Ukraine and India?
Relationship between India and Ukraine have been old and traditional, even before the independence of Ukraine from the erstwhile USSR. There is a deep understanding of India, Indian culture and its traditions in Ukraine. Since independence, our ties have become much closer. Very few people realize that bilateral trade between India and Ukraine is as high as US$ 2.35 billion, making India the seventh largest trading partner for Ukraine. More important is the fact that Ukraine exports nearly US$ 1.95 billion worth of goods to India, making India the sixth largest export destination for Ukraine.
5. What initiatives are being undertaken to promote trade between Ukraine and India? How is the Indian Embassy promoting trade and investment between the two countries?
Apart from the well-established linkages in the area of defence related industries, there are some new niche areas being discussed with the Government of Ukraine for enhancing economic and trade relationship. These include cultivation and export of pulses from Ukraine to India. India imports nearly US$ 2 billion worth of pulses every year. Ukraine can get a large portion of it. Focus on utilizing the excellent educational facilities in Ukraine by bringing in Indian students has been activated. Currently, there are nearly 8000 Indian students studying in Ukraine which generates more than US$ 40 million for the Ukrainian economy. This number might increase up to US$ 150 million if some necessary improvements are done in getting quality students, providing them with good quality education and corruption free administration as well as lodging and boarding in Ukrainian universities. Indian Embassy has also acted pro-actively with the Government of Ukraine to promote Indian tourism to Ukraine. The recent provision on visa on arrival facility extended to the Indian nationals is a welcome step and is expected to result in nearly US$ 30 million tourism industry in Ukraine because of Indian tourists very soon.
6. What opportunities exist for Ukrainian businesses that wish to explore Indian market? Similarly, what is your advice for Indian businesses that are interested in Ukraine?
Some new spheres of economic cooperation between our countries have been started in 2016. Blood products that are produced in Ukraine can have good market in India. Ukrainian company 'Biopharma' had visited India in this regard and they are enthused by the demand for their products in India. I have already spoken about the export of pulses from Ukraine to India. On the other hand, pharmaceuticals are of immense potential for export from India to Ukraine. In 2016, Indian pharmaceutical products worth US$ 135 million were imported in Ukraine from India. However, there is a need to increase this volume significantly. Import of pharmaceutical products from India is also a big advantage for Ukrainian budget because if US$ 100 worth pharmaceutical products are imported from India, Ukraine will save nearly US$ 300 because if these products are imported from Europe or America, Ukraine will need to spend more than US$ 400. Therefore, there is a need to streamline the procedures and facilitate import of good quality and certified pharmaceutical products from India to Ukraine.
7. What is the current state of cultural, educational, and tourism ties between the two countries? What kind of growth do you see in this space in the coming years? Are there any special initiatives in-progress to strengthen these ties?
There is a great amount of people-to-people interaction between India and Ukraine. More than twenty thousand tourists visit India every year. There is a great awareness of various forms of Indian culture and traditions in Ukraine. This is evident from a large number of yoga classes being run in various cities in Ukraine. A large number of schools teaching Indian classical, folk and modern dances are also being run in various cities in Ukraine. Recently, a festival of Indian dance was organized in Kyiv and nearly 350 artists and children participated in this festival. Government of India offers 25 ITEC scholarships for professional Ukrainians in 65 different areas, including English language, IT training, audit and finance, leadership training, etc. The details of these courses and application forms can be taken from the Embassy's website: http://embassyofindiaukraine.in. Government of India also provides additional scholarships for learning Indian classical dances, music, Ayurveda and Hindi every year. Information regarding all these can also be obtained from the Indian Embassy's website.
8. How can Ukraine attract more tourists from India?
The most important requirement for attracting Indian tourists to Ukraine has already been met on 16 April 2017 when Indian nationals were allowed to visit Ukraine with "visa on arrival" facility. The next step that will go a long way in attracting Indian tourists to Ukraine is to promote shooting of Indian films in Ukraine. Once Ukraine is seen in the Indian films, huge number of Indians will come to this beautiful land to see it for themselves. The Embassy of India is constantly working to promote Ukraine as an ideal destination for shooting of Indian films. One Indian film has already been shot in Lviv and Kyiv in November-December 2016. Six new projects are in the pipeline. Government of Ukraine can take some innovative steps to lure Indian film producers to this country like concessional tariff, ease in getting permissions, etc.
9. Tell us about your favorite place in Kiev and what you like the most and least in the city.
Kyiv is a beautiful city and there are many places which make one feel good. The Botanical Garden in spring is a wonderful site. Similarly, the vast expanse of Pyrohovo National Museum is another example, in addition to the foot bridge over Dnipro river, Friendship Arch, Mother Ukraine statue, Turkhnov Island, Pechresk Lavra. There are countless other places which can be named as my favourite. What I don't like in Kyiv is city walls made dirty with mindless graffiti.
10. What would be your special message to the Indian community in Ukraine?
Though the Indian community in Ukraine is small, they play a very important role in spreading message of Indian customs and traditions in Ukraine. I would like to congratulate the Indian community for being responsible citizens in Ukraine and request them to play a bigger role in spreading the message of India in Ukraine which can be summarized in the well-known Sanskrit proverb called "वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्" which means "the entire world is one family".
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