What do Belarus and India have in common? Review of Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Belarus

What do Belarus and India have in common? Review of Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Belarus

Bollywood melodramas, Bangalore Square in Minsk and the famous tea with an elephant. Despite the distance, India has been close to the heart of every Belarusian since Soviet times. Now, apparently, it is time to restart the bilateral relations. This fashionable word in the world of diplomacy is the best to describe the first official visit of the President of India to Belarus.

Pranab Mukherjee is quite an influential and noticeable person in the global political arena. He has been serving as president for three years now and previously he chaired the ministries of finance, defense and foreign affairs. He brought a lot of businessmen in Minsk, which speaks of far-reaching economic plans in relation to Belarus. And Belarus clearly has something to offer one of the world's largest importers.

The country of spices, elephants, Bollywood, Ayurveda and yoga. The immense culture and ancient civilization. The second most populous country in the world and seventh biggest in terms of the territory. India is a potential superpower. If you understand India, you understand the whole world. 

Meditation is a popular activity in India, which united almost the entire nation. In Belarus, yoga is at the peak of popularity. Thousands of people have taken a great interest in this science of life, with lessons being held even in city parks.  

What else do these seemingly distant countries have in common? Last week, this subject was brought up a lot of times during the Indian president's visit to Belarus.

India is one of the first countries that recognized sovereign Belarus. The history of the relationship has already been established. In 1997, Alexander Lukashenko visited India for the first time, and 10 years later there was one more visit. The Belarusian leader met with Pranab Mukherjee, who then held the post of the foreign minister.

Today, the countries not only support each other in the international arena but build mutually beneficial bilateral relations with great potential.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
You know that we have never concealed pride in relations with India. I have always said that attempts to isolate Belarus or somehow put pressure on our country are futile because we have relations with such huge countries as yours.
And, of course, Mr. President, I will not hide it: we would like deeper and more extensive relationship with a country like India, especially because we have a great history of relations since the times of the Soviet Union. And I want you to know that we are ready to go our part of the way quickly, efficiently and responsibly. And if you want it, we will very quickly be able to raise our trade and economic relations to a normal level that truly corresponds to our potentials.

India is the largest exporter, but Belarusians also have something to offer. Tractors, large trucks, municipal and road-building machinery. And it's not just about buying and selling. The sides are mulling creating service centers and joint production facilities. 

Pranab Mukherjee:
The Government of India has recently decided to recognize Belarus the market economy. And it will improve economic and trade relations many times in the coming years. India also intends to allocate for its companies a credit line of $100 million for the implementation of joint projects with Belarus. 

On the first day of the visit, the sides inked the road map of the Belarusian-Indian relations.

However, this is not the only document signed in Minsk.  The businessmen, who came with the president, had meetings in the government, the parliament, at factories, and then took part in the business forum. Mr Lukashenko noted that Belarus is waiting for Indian businessmen in the industrial park.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
In our difficult time, many entrepreneurs, businessmen, managers of large enterprises talk about lending and more advantageous and preferential financing. As a result of our recent visits and agreements in the Asian region with China, Pakistan, India and Vietnam we no more have that credit problem. The President of India said that the government supports and will continue to support Indian and Belarusian companies to provide them with preferential loans for lending to viable projects. Therefore, such a unique environment for business has been created in Belarus for the first time. The main thing is to start projects. Frankly, we don't have enough of them now. Because now the approach is tougher: one cannot make products for warehouses. Therefore, if we have good projects, we will support and finance them.

Grodno-Minsk. Teleconference. The Business Forum and the opening of the memorial sign. Grodno CHP-2 is a proof of the success of the joint project. An Indian company was involved in the reconstruction of the CHP having invested more than $50 million.

Vladimir Shaternik, director general of Grodnoenergo:
We have achieved savings of 130 million cubic meters of gas, which corresponds to 24 million dollars a year.

Samar Shakil has been representing Belarusian interests in India for five years. India has already appreciated the advantages of BelAZ.

Samar Shakil, executive director of BelAZ-Enrika Mining equipmets and services (Belarus-India):
Our task is not only to push BelAZ in the Indian market (incidentally, BelAZ proved itself in the toughest weather conditions, plus 52 degrees). Very good response, good fuel consumption. Now the major Indian capital is going to make big investments in Africa, Australia and Indonesia. We want them to look at BelAZ.

Oleg Stepuk, first deputy general director of BelAZ:
Today's agreement provides for a five-year contract, where the financing is about $100 million.

MTZ, Gomselmash and ball bearing plant. New contracts and new supplies.

Alexander Labusov, CEO of Minsk Bearing Plant:
We signed an agreement worth $1 million, we will secure those supplies. Besides, we will now certify our new products on the railways in India. In the future, we think we can double deliveries there.

Ramdas Kut, head of a pharmaceutical company (India):
Our company manufactures tablets, oils and creams. We work in many markets, including Russia and Kazakhstan. But there are no analogues of our products in Belarus. So we want to offer you the unique products. We are thinking about the creation of centers for spa, massage and yoga here.

The Ministry of Health proposes three new investment projects worth more than $50 million. These operating tables (made in Belarus) are modern and capable of being used in the most remote locations and challenging environments.  They are already being tested by Indian doctors.

Nikolai Dombrovsky, deputy director of a research unitary enterprise:
A contract has been signed for the modernization of Indian tanks. We will offer a better model, a modern model of the monitor. It is color and has a higher resolution. We will offer new items for aviation. This is the most modern monitor with a powerful built-in calculator.

In the near future, our research institute will open a joint venture in India.

New figures, new contracts and new partners - such are the results of the first official visit of the President of India to Belarus.

Manoj Kumar Bharti is the Indian Ambassador in Minsk. There are often Belarusian foodstuffs on his table.

Manoj Kumar Bharti, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Republic of Belarus:
You have a delicious soup - borscht. I really like this dish. Of course, I love pancakes. Everybody loves pancakes.

For Indians Belarusian milk is like Indian spices for Belarusians.  India uses milk only to cook sweets.

Manoj Kumar Bharti, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Republic of Belarus:
Sour cream, yogurt, ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese. What I also love is your curdled milk.

A true representative of India, he practices yoga, and all interested persons are invited. In late June, Minsk will join the international marathon. Anyone can come to the free workshop.

Manoj Kumar Bharti, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Republic of Belarus:
The master class will be held in the Gorky Park. My dream is to gather 5,000 Belarusians. Your country's population is about 10 million and 20% of them do yoga. This is an excellent figure!

After the visit to Minsk, diplomats talk about new prospects of Belarus and India. Pharmacists from that country are ready to invest in Belarus, while industry and agriculture are interested in Belarus-made equipment. Belarusian-Indian trade turnover will certainly grow.

Manoj Kumar Bharti, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Republic of Belarus:
The potential of the economy is now limited. But we would like to achieve a turnover of $1 billion. This is not much but more than now. There are plenty of opportunities to achieve this goal.