The incumbent President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko has won the 2020 presidential election. He has been President of Belarus for more than 26 years. As the election results were declared, the capital Minsk and other places saw protests as citizens took to street to show their dissatisfaction. However, the election results are not expected to have any impact on the bilateral relationship between India and Belarus.
India’s relations with Belarus have been traditionally warm and cordial. India was one of the first countries to recognize Belarus as an independent country in 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union. This recognition has helped the two countries to develop good understanding and commonality of views on various matters and cooperate with each other in multilateral fora on issues of mutual interest. The cooperation between the two countries are visible at many multilateral fora such as UN Security Council (UNSC) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In fact, Belarus was one of the countries whose support helped in consolidating India’s candidature for the non-permanent seat at the UNSC in July 2020. India has also reciprocated Belarus’s support at various international fora. New Delhi supports Belarus’s membership in the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and other international and multilateral groups like IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union). India’s supportive stand on various Resolutions in Geneva and New York targeting Belarus for violation of human rights and restrictions on freedom of expression has been deeply appreciated by Belarus.
Understanding the growth of India as an emerging global power, Belarus seeks to develop a “strategic relationship” with India. New Delhi’s membership in G20, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the BRICS also is significant for Belarus, which also wants to expand her influence especially in the Eurasian region.
The two countries have worked hard in developing the warm and friendly relationship. This is visible with the high level visits from both sides. The two sides are cooperating on various areas. India nad Belarus are collaborating in the area of metals and mining, education and heavy machinery, science and technology, energy sector, potash fertilizers, modernization of public electric transport system in India, agriculture and agro-processing and tourism. Both countries have also agreed on joint projects in manufacturing defence parts. It will be beneficial for India, as Belarus has developed high skills in maintaining and upgrading Soviet-era defence equipment.
During the 2015 state visit to Belarus of the then President of India; New Delhi and Minsk signed several agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, including agreements between Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Ministry of Finance, Bureau of Indian Standards as well as between Prasar Bharti and Belarus National State Television. Belarus also unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Belarusian State University in 2018 to honour the Apostle of Peace. The overall status of the high level visits between the two countries have remained successful.
In the economic sector, the annual bilateral trade turnover in 2019 stands at US$ 569.6 million. According to reports, there has been significant increase from the previous year. India’s special gesture in 2015 that granted Belarus the Market Economy Status and a US$ 100 million Line of Credit has also helped in the growth in the economic sector. India’s encouragement to the Belarusian businessmen to invest in ‘Make in India’ projects are bearing fruits.
The strategic location of Belarus makes it a transitory artery for Eurasia and can help India in future for linking with the International North-South Corridor (INSTC). The robust relationship that Belarus shares with the other INSTC members including Russia is a big advantage for India.
Given the mutual trust and understanding between India and Belarus, the relationship would only get stronger. India has been assisting Belarus in its human resource development under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme. So far, over 290 Belarusian officials and others have been benefitted from this. Belarus is looking forward to hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit this year and will regard it as a landmark event for bilateral relations.
Script: Dr. Indrani Talukdar, Strategic Analyst on CIS