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Ambassador of India to Armenia: Our Relations with Armenia are on the Right Path

"Armedia" IAA presents an exclusive interview with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Republic of ArmeniaH.E. Dr.Suresh Babu

 

- Your Excellency, will you, please, describe the current Indo-Armenian relations?

- The modern relations are built on the basis of our historical and traditionally friendly relations. In ancient India Armenians never had any problems with the inhabitants, they maintained cordial relations, they did their trade honestly, opened their companies there. Armenia and India are such countries which never attacked any other country, both have defended themselves during invasions. So there was a good foundation for every harmonious approach towards Armenians. During the Soviet period there were political, cultural exchanges between Soviet Armenia and India: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Lok Sabha delegation visited Armenia.

I can recall from my student days that there were twinning relations between Indian states and Soviet republics. And my state Andhra Pradesh was a sister-state with Soviet Armenia. That time many Armenians used to come to Hyderabad: scientists, teachers, performing artists. Armenian authors’ stories, folk-tales were published in English, Hindi, other Indian languages. I remember also, when I was a child, my father took me to Madras, and there we went to Armenian Bazaar to buy things. And that time I didn’t know what "Armenia" is, and my father told that it is one of the Soviet republics.

 

- And that time you couldn’t, Yes, imagine that one day you will come to that country as an Ambassador?

- India was one of the first states to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia and establish diplomatic relations. The first President of Armenia – Levon Ter-Petrosyan was invited to visit India. And he came to India, where he also participated in the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the first Armenian journal "Azdarar" which was published in 1794 in Madras. So our tryst with Armenia continues in a positive trajectory. The second President Robert Kocharyan also visited India (in Chandigarh he inaugurated the opening of Caucasian Centre), and now we are working on the visit of the third President. We have few political exchanges which could be more. That is because India has its own preoccupations, Armenia – its own preoccupations, problems retaining its identity, since it’s a small country. We have also inter-parliamentary contacts. 2 years ago the Parliamentary delegation headed by Hovik Abrahamyan, the then Speaker, went to India. There are cultural, scientific exchanges, too.

So our relations are extremely on the right path. We understand Armenia’s concerns when it comes to its problems, to issues with its neighbours.

 

- India supports Armenia on various sectors: education, agriculture, IT, health. Could you elaborate this in more details?

- Armenia is not an exception if you compare with other CIS countries. They all are 25-year old countries, new democracies, emerging economies. 25 years is nothing in terms of history. We understood that all these countries need support. That time Prime Minister of India was Narasimha Rao, highly intellectual, brilliantly educated person, polyglot, he fluently spoke in 11 languages (by the way he was also from Andhra Pradesh). He used to say: "Let’s not forget the history – Soviet Union helped us a lot when India became independent. USSR is not just Russia. Each republic had its own contribution, that’s why we must help all the newly independent republics. Now it is India’s time to help. India is in a better position now, we must pay back what we got from them."

So with that idea we started helping those countries: we offered financial aid, machinery, equipment, tractors.

By the way, India helped Armenia also during the Spitak earthquake in 1988. That time I just joined the External Affairs Ministry as a younger attache and I was dealing with all that information. Not only Indian government but also common people were not indifferent to the Armenian tragedy. According to official data, three Indian aircrafts flew to Yerevan with groups of Indian doctors, 5,000 winterized army tents, hospital beds, medicine and medical equipment. A special Fund for earthquake relief was opened in Armenia; the fund received monetary means from both individuals and organizations. An aid committee under the Prime Minister was set up to assist the victims in Armenia. A lot of aid was collected in West Bengal state, in Calcutta.

After 1991 we started to help in training specialists since every country should have its own trained, professional specialists. Through ITEC program (Indian Technical & economic Cooperation) in almost 20 years we trained more than 300 Armenian specialists. We regularly give also ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural relations) scholarships. We renovated schools in Armenia, built buildings in Spitak region.

We don’t compare our modest assistance with other big countries, close countries to Armenia. We thought it will make sense if we share our expertise in those sectors where India has achievements. That is ICT (Information, communication technology), pharmaceuticals, management sectors. The last 5-6 years we sponsor Armenian various delegations from agriculture, health, IT and other sectors to visit India. Indian business delegations come to Armenia, too. Recently pharma, IT delegations, companies came to Armenia, and in the last 2 years same sectors’ delegations from Armenia went to India. Just last week a delegation of 8-9 people headed by Armenian Deputy Minister of Health went to India to participate in Health Care summit in New Delhi. These are the areas where we have potential for cooperation.

Right now there are almost 950 Indian students studying in the Yerevan State Medical University. Hundreds of graduates went back to India (some of them with their Armenian wives), some of them went to US, UK, other European countries with their degree. So they are the real ambassadors of Armenia in India since they speak Armenian, they lived here more than 6 years, they miss Yerevan, they miss lavash, they pick up Armenian traditions, customs, Armenia became their second home! If they are properly gathered, mobilized and create a big alumni, they can be useful in India to make closer bilateral ties.

Recently we have executed a half million dollar program, called "Telemedicine" in 10 hospitals of Armenia. The hub is in Grigor Lusavorich hospital where there is a big room with all the equipment. They are giving consultations to other hospitals in different regions of Armenia where this system is also installed.

As you know, we are one of the world leaders in IT sector. Only in this sector the turnover is worth more than 40bln dollars, 25 bln – pharmaceuticals. These are the strong areas of Indian economy. In 2011, in the premises of the Yerevan State University we created "Indo-Armenian IT sector of excellence" which is equipped with super-computer, called Param. Armenia is the first country-recipient of this super-computer, it’s an almost 1mln dollar project. We provided this centre with computers, hardware and connected with CDAC (Centre for development and application of computers) in Pune, which is a governmental organization. But this super-computer is not fully utilized, so the Armenian Centre should make efforts to use it in its full capacity.

Another project implemented by us was computerization of schools of Tavush region. All 73 schools of this region were provided with computer laboratories with computers, scanners, printers, so children can have regular computer-classes. We offered to replicate the same project in Vayots Dzor, we’ll do the same project in this region’s almost 50 schools.

Armenia like India is agro-based country and here there are some areas where we can cooperate. Some time ago we got apricot plants and planted in some Agriculture Universities in northern state Himachal Pradesh where climate more or less resembles climate of Armenia. This is another important area for our cooperation, and taking into consideration that Armenia is member of Eurasian Economic Union, it can work. India and Russia agreed to set up a working group on negotiating an agreement on– CECA – Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, i.e. Free Trade Agreement. And this agreement we’ll negotiate not only with Russia but other EEU states, including Armenia. So this is another platform where we need to develop our cooperation. So I think through EEU we’ll enter Armenia.


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17.01.2019
   
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