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President of Mongolia Khaltmaagiin Battulga is on a State visit to India. He is visiting the country at the invitation of President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind. This seems to be the first visit of any Mongolian President to India during about a decade. The President of Mongolia is accompanied by a high-level delegation consisting of government authorities and business leaders.
The visiting President Mr. Battulga held wide-ranging discussions with President Kovind. In honour of the visiting President, a banquet was hosted by the Indian President. Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu also called the Mongolian President. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held delegation level talks with President Battulga. The discussion between the Indian Prime Minister and Mongolian President, the two countries covered a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. The issue of bilateral cooperation in capacity building, defence, security, infrastructure, energy, disaster management and cultural exchanges were on the agenda. It may be noted that the meeting between the President and Prime Minister Modi was the second such meeting in a fortnight’s time. Prime Minister Modi had met the Mongolian President in the first week of September 2019 on the sidelines of the fifth meeting of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held at Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
India is reactivating its engagement with East and Prime Minister Modi paid a significant visit to Mongolia in 2015. The two countries signed an agreement in 2015 to establish strategic partnership, which is based on ideals of freedom and democracy as well as on the strong foundation of common Buddhist heritage. The on-going five day visit of the President of Mongolia is likely to further cement the ties between the two countries and reinforce the strategic partnership.
India and Mongolia established diplomatic relations in December 1955. Mongolia is a landlocked country and has only two neighbours, Russia and China. Mongolia is reaching out to other countries through its interesting policy of ‘third neighbour’. Many people in Mongolia also consider India to be its “spiritual neighbour” on account of the deep Buddhism links and historical connections. Former Ambassador of India to Mongolia Bakula Rimpoche is remembered fondly in the country. During his 10 years tenure at Ulaanbaatar from 1990-2000 he significantly contributed to strengthen the legacy of Buddhist connections with India. He helped reviving many monasteries.
Mongolia is endowed with vast natural resources, it is a large country but the population is concentrated in its’ capital Ulaanbaatar. Despite potential, trade between the two countries has remained low. In 2018-19 the total trade between the two countries was only US $ 23.83 million. Nevertheless, in recent trade has been growing. The balance of trade is in India’s favour. Mongolia can play an important role in India’s engagement with the East.
As the global pivot is shifting towards East, India is also trying to reach out to the East. India is actively pursuing its “Act East” and now the “Act Far East” policies. This has been announced during the visit of Prime Minister to Russia, earlier this month. In India’s engagement with the eastern part of the world, Mongolia can play a critical role. India is executing an Oil Refinery Project under its Line of Credit of US$ 1 billion announced during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in 2015. New Delhi has also extended US$ 1 billion line of credit to Russia during the Mr. Modi’s visit to the country in September 2019.
Mongolia shares similar views with India on major international issues. The country is also an observer with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) where India has become a full member since 2017.
India and Mongolia would also cooperate in the fields of security and defence. A joint India-Mongolia exercise ‘Nomadic Elephant’ is held annually. People to people and cultural cooperation between India and Mongolia have been growing over the years. It is expected that following the State visit of President Battulga, the Strategic Partnership between India and Mongolia will deepen further.
Script: Dr. Athar Zafar, Strategic Analyst on CIS