The visit of External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar to Poland and Hungary signifies India’s commitment towards expanding its relationship with Central and Eastern Europe.
Relations with Hungary has been notably substantive and multifaceted over the years. The External Affairs Minister met his Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó (पीटर सिज्जार्तो) which the Hungarian Foreign Minister emphasized on strengthening convergence in the areas of film production, digitalization, water management, solar energy and pharmaceuticals. The positive trend of Indian investment in Hungary and its favourable business environment was appreciated by the Indian side. Both sides agreed to boost bilateral interaction in the fields of education, tourism and science. Hungary’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a step in the right direction for advancing cooperation in harnessing solar energy. The two countries also discussed the need to reinforce economic ties and augment parliamentary exchanges and cooperation.
Dr. Jaishankar’s visit to Poland was the first by an Indian foreign minister in 32 years. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Prof. Jacek Czaputowicz (जज़ेक कजापुटोविज़) emphasized India’s role as an active and significant player in G20 and in the United Nations, as well as Poland’s key partner in South Asia. India’s willingness to engage more actively in the region of Central Europe and in the ‘Visegrad’ group was rightfully conveyed. Both the Ministers reiterated the importance of an effective multilateral system and a rules-based world order as key factors in maintaining global stability.
The Ministers held discussions on a wide range of issues concerning bilateral political cooperation, as well as in the field of economy, education and culture. Among several issues, Prof. Czaputowicz expressed Poland’s clear stance on combatting terrorism. Other security problems like maintaining peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and West Asia, Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferation, maritime and aviation security, cyber security, energy security, humanitarian issues, refugees and human rights also came under the purview of the discussion.
India appreciated Poland’s commitment towards actively shaping the EU-India agenda to the benefit of both parties. Another notable achievement of the meeting of the ministers was the announcement that Polish national carrier LOT would be starting direct flights from Warsaw to New Delhi. This step, apart from expanding business and tourism linkages, will bring the peoples of the two countries closer.
On trade, it is noteworthy to mention that Poland is India’s largest trade partner and export destination in the Central European region. Bilateral trade between Poland and India presently stands at approximately US$ 3 billion. India is also the most significant destination for Polish foreign direct investments (FDI) in Asia. The visit of India’s External Affairs Minister to Poland thus gave a fillip to the existing trade relationship between the two countries.
During the cold war period, India had cordial relations with eastern and central European countries. However, the potential of cooperation between India and Central European countries has remained largely untapped for long. Pushing economic and cultural interests, along with promoting people-to-people ties in this increasingly pivotal region holds strategic importance for India, given the fact that China’s 16+1 initiative might have geopolitical implications in the region.
The high-level visits by President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu to Eastern, Southern and Central Europe in the recent past are seen as steps to revive ties with the region. In particular, while Hungary can be seen as playing an important role in the multi-modal International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project that seeks to connect the Indian Ocean and Baltic Sea, direct connectivity has been set to be established by Poland with the target of expanding its activities in Asia. Poland has become the seventh largest economy in the EU with a total GDP of € 524 billion. Resetting ties with a resilient Polish economy is an attractive proposition for Indian investors at present. Dr. Jaishanker’s visit to Poland was also seen to be significant in the backdrop of the role played by Poland as chair of the UN Security Council for August, particularly in blocking Pakistan’s moves on Kashmir.
Script: Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma, Strategic Analyst on European Affairs