Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Belarus – Musings of a Novice

Belarus is a beautiful country in Eastern Europe bordering Poland
With President Alexander Lukashenko
, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia.  It is currently in news because of the state visit of President Pranab Mukherjee on June 2, 2015, the first ever by the President of India. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna was the first Indian Foreign Minister to visit Minsk in August, 2010 when I was the Ambassador of India to Belarus. It is a matter of satisfaction that high level contacts have been consciously maintained by both the sides. PM Jawaharlal Nehru, PM Indira Gandhi, PM Rajiv Gandhi visited Belarus when it was a federate of the erstwhile USSR. India-Belarus relations are excellent ever since its independence in 1991 as it has roots in the traditional friendship between the peoples from Soviet days. Belarus is the first and the only NAM country in Europe. Both India and Belarus has everything to gain from each other with mutual co-operation. It is a matter of gratification that leaderships of both countries are fully aware of these opportunities and ground realities. I recall an anecdote to confirm the bonhomie among the leaders. On my first arrival in Minsk as Ambassador of India in February, 2009, I called, inter alia, on the Co-Chairman of India- Belarus Joint- Committee on Defense Co-operation. After the meeting, he invited me to his personal chamber and showed me his photograph, kept by side of his desk, with President APJ Abdul Kalam. Being a scientist himself, he held President Kalam in high esteem.

Belarus is a strong country technically, industrially and scientifically. It was called the assembly-line of the USSR in the Soviet times. Belarus has the necessary wherewithal for heavy transport, defense equipment, scientific know-how which could be of interest to India. Belarus is a big supplier of potash (MOP) not only to India but also to other destinations.  Potash could be another area of interest to India. Belarus has been showing interest in cooperation in matters pertaining to space. These avenues may be explored. It gives me a lot of satisfaction that I could contribute my little bit in further strengthening the cooperation to mutual advantage.

India has been doing well in supply of small consumables by way
At one of the ANM Trade Fairs
of business to consumer exhibitions in Belarus. These fairs are very popular. Shri Naveen Kohli and Shri Anil Mehta of ANM Corporation have been doing good business in this regard to mutual benefit. Indian pharmaceuticals are widely accepted and used in Belarus.  Further opportunities need to be identified and exploited to strengthen economic and commercial relations.

There are constructive understandings on political and diplomatic issues between India and Belarus. Cultural bonds are good. It is good to note that there is a big craze in the younger generation in Belarus about Indian performing arts like dance and music, even Yoga. It must be encouraged and supported. I myself supported and hosted at the Embassy in Minsk the Yoga classes of Gayatri and Sree Kumar and dance training of Sapna Group of Elena Sipach.

President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit will be yet another mile stone in the friendly relations so happily existing between India and Belarus.

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