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Mikhail Myasnikovich about Belarusian-Indian tractor and Bollywood films - exclusive interview to the TV program Picture of the World

Simultaneously with the opening of the Turkmen embassy in Minsk, a Belarusian house was being opened in an Asian country. A service repair house in India. Now it will be able to fully serve 'Belarusian elephants' - BelAZ trucks that India intends to buy from us. That country is interesting, unusual and not that simple. Later we will watch the special report on India but now let's watch an interview with chairman of the upper house of the Belarus parliament Mikhail Myasnikovich. We recorded it next to the historic residence of the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi.

A heat is 45 degrees Celsius. How are you feeling in India?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
My condition and feelings, as the head of the parliamentary delegation, is determined not only by the climate but also by the results of those meetings and negotiations that took place during our visit.

How hot were they?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
I would say they were not easy. But I would like to note a confidential nature of such meetings. The constructive approach of the President of India pleasantly surprised me, when we discussed bilateral relations and not only. We touched upon the issues of international relations. The Belarusian and Indian presidents both underline that the United Nations' role in the peaceful settlement of conflicts in certain regions of our planet is of particular important and great activity is required.

Here it is pertinent to note that we are recording an interview near the residence of the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who, in fact, was killed by terrorists and the issue of security of India is clear. And India also understands the role of Belarus in the Minsk agreements, doesn't it?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
This was a separate issue of the talks. And, indeed, the Indian side stressed the importance of Belarusian initiatives demonstrated by our President and our country for the peaceful settlement of all problems in Ukraine. The President of India was very interested in our estimates relating to the settlement of the Ukraine crisis. And also he asked about Belarusian-Russian relations. Sovereign India has been developing such good and friendly relations with the Soviet Union since the 50-60s. And now the Russian Federation, the Russian leadership, supports the active cooperation with India. And a number of projects are being implemented quite successfully.

But your initiative about involving India into the Eurasian Economic Union... Was it a Belarusian initiative or did Russia ask to convey it to India?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
I'll tell you that this idea belongs to Belarus. This theme was raised by the government of Belarus in 2013 at a meeting of the Council of Heads of Government of the Eurasian Economic Union. There are some positive sides but also lots of limiting factors, because we understand that the free entry of Indian goods to the Eurasian market means to some extent higher competition for our producers. But at the same time we are convinced that with the signing of this agreement huge opportunities will open for Belarusian producers in the free trade zone. India is vast, with a population of 1.3 billion people, and the purchasing power of the population and legal entities is increasing. Suffice it to say that India's economy over the last year has grown by 7.4% (the gross domestic product), which is the highest rate of economic growth, even more than China. And this is not some kind of a phenomenal year. For the last five years, the growth has not been less than 5%.

Do we want to get on this high-speed train?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
And we just see that here we can become a very active participant in the growth of the Indian economy. I head four projects to build pharmaceutical plants in Belarus. The first one will be commissioned this year, and then, during 2017 or at most 2018, we will commission another 2-3 factories, which will produce Belarusian medicines. And this will contribute to import substitution and these medicines can also be exported to countries of the Eurasian Union.

Will Belarusian plants appear in India?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
During this visit, we had really candid conversations with the senior officials of India, the president, the heads of both chambers of Parliament and deputies. And you were also there during these discussions and asked not very comfortable questions. But the very nature of these issues suggests that there is an interest. And when our delegation was preparing to visit India, one of the main objectives was to ensure that India re-discovers Belarus, to awaken more initiative and interest of Belarusian businessmen and political circles. And it seems we have succeeded. Suffice it to say that within the framework of the business forum, we have signed 20 agreements and contracts, including commercial ones. And they involve products which earlier were not a topic of discussion. For example, our Orsha Linen Mill has signed the first contract for the supply to India of many tens of thousands of square meters of linen fabric.India is itself known for its textiles, but at the same time they are very interested in importing Belarusian flax fabric.
We have signed protocols of intentions and an agreement on the joint production of BelAZ. Skeptics may ask why we are creating an assembly facility in India when we can sell trucks we are making in Zhodino.

There is low demand.

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
For now, yes. And this is due to a number of objective reasons too.

If we start to assemble these trucks, will the demand grow? Does this guarantee demand?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
There are two reasons. Today they produce quarry equipment with a lifting capacity of up to 100 tons. And this fact to a certain extent hinders purchases of Belarusian dump trucks. By the way, they don't buy anything from Komatsu or Caterpillar either. They are now using what they have. So, the idea is to produce here together with our Belarusian Autoworks haul trucks and sell them here in the domestic market or in third countries. And I think, in view of this mix, such a partnership will succeed. And we must be the first to come to this market because otherwise India may create their own trucks and potential demand our products will decrease drastically (Indians have already developed some prototypes of haulers with a carrying capacity of 200-220 tons).  
The next direction is the creation of the Belarusian-Indian tractor. India produces a very large number of tractors. This is several tens of times greater than what we produce in Belarus.

Cheaper and simpler tractors?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
Yes, simpler and repairable. Now, while Belarusian agrarians are interested mainly in tractors of 350 or more horsepower, Indians are showing great interest to 50-80hp tractors, which we produced in large quantities. And the co-production will allow these tractors to have sufficiently high percentage of Belarusian components. Here, of great importance is the fact that India has a number of agreements on trade without customs duty with other countries in the region. For example, Sri Lanka and a number of African countries. These days India protects its producers with high import duties, about 30-40%. And, of course, to sell with this margin (plus the value added tax) is very problematic.

You have raised this topic at numerous meetings offering to remove the duty or reduce it. This is quite an opportunistic offer. Do you believe that they can do it? Won't they still protect their market?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
I am not an adventurer, you know…

I am talking about a good share of adventure! What if we succeed?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
I raised this issue before the speakers of both chambers of Parliament. I said we need to cancel the duties or at least reduce them when it comes to investment imports. Thus localization will be active here and it will be a competitive product in price and quality. Both heads of the parliament chambers said that such approach really deserves attention.
We are very interested in the sales and signed the relevant documents on polymer fiber and other kinds of fibers. I would especially like to emphasize that it may even be a national project for Belarus. The government of India has decided to create urban electric transport, trolleybuses. India does not have them at all. And now we are working actively with one of the cities, which now promises to allocate funding to build 20 km of trolleybus lines. We can do it perfectly. We can design, build, and equip everything that will have to do with trolleybuses. Senior officials expressed interest. This is many years' work for Belarusians. This is very beneficial.
We agreed to invigorate work to supply tire products here, they were especially interested in OTR tires. India extracts a lot of ore, coal, and this is work in quarries, so for them a question of tire products for large-size equipment is a big one.
There were just reproaches of the Belarusian side about red tape with visa support, they say it was difficult to obtain visas, that there is no direct flight connection and that they had to go via the United Arab Emirates or through Germany, or via Moscow. All this, of course, hinders the economic activity.
It was also noted that we could invigorate cooperation in the financial and banking sector. Of course, we do not have any extra financial resources and India is not particularly rich, but individual projects for long-term investment can certainly be supported. And even during the visit of the president in 2015, India provided us with a concessional loan of $100 million. Now Belarus and India are discussing what projects to implement and facilities to build in line with this loan.

I started with the fact that we are standing here in this heat of 45 degrees recording this interview but at a meeting with the speaker of the lower house of the Parliament you presented him a picture with winter landscapes. I saw that they were a little bit surprised. In order to trade, you need to know each other better. Perhaps they should be invited to Belarus even in winter. At least they will remember our weather, our conditions and may somehow start to better understand us.

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
I believe that visits and business contacts akin to this one are a kind of catalyst awakening the interest and we need to implement this interest during subsequent visits.

What do you remember in India? Basically you had official meetings. But what about the tourism dimension? We did not almost see yogis though they were surprised that yoga is very popular in Belarus. And what do you remember?

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
India is an ancient culture, really interesting and friendly people, probably everyone knows it. You know, I discovered India somehow in a special way. This is my fifth time in India. The four previous were business trips.

That is, the question is irrelevant...

Mikhail Myasnikovich:
Once I was here because of personal contacts. I must say that India is changing. This is already evident in well-kept streets, though not everywhere... People are good-natured. They are not that unsociable as earlier. Remember the young years, we watched with pleasure Indian sentimental serials. Those good feelings that have arisen between the two peoples really help businessmen. Generally, if we build a logical line, then we see we do not have any unsolvable problems. There is a political will of our heads of state, there are appropriate instructions and they are being monitored.

Mikhail Myasnikovich about Belarusian-Indian tractor and Bollywood films - exclusive interview to the TV program Picture of the World