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With Eye on China’s Belt Road Initiative, India to step up economic partnerships with Eastern, Southern Europe

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau

The Eastern European bloc and India historically enjoyed close relations and now Delhi is keen to penetrate flourishing markets, seek technology and funds as opposition to BRI rises in Europe.

NEW DELHI: Amid Chinese inroads in Eastern Europe as part of its Belt Road Initiative, India is putting in plans in place to boost its economic partnership with the erstwhile Communist States and Southern Europe.

The upcoming back to back visits by President Ram Nath Kovind to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic (Sep 2-9) followed by visit by Vice President Venkaih Naidu to Malta, Serbia and Romania (mid-September) will bring India's growing role in the region in the limelight.

This will be Kovind’s second visit to the region earlier being to Greece few months back where he outlined India’s Europe policy. The Eastern European bloc (during the period of Soviet Union) and India historically enjoyed close relations and now Delhi is keen to penetrate flourishing markets, seek technology and funds as opposition to BRI rises in Europe.

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China has promised huge investments in the Eastern and Central Europe, augmented by the 16 (Eastern-Central Europe) +1 (China) process. Therefore, focus from Delhi to this region is pertinent in this context.

Cyprus, an unambiguous supporter of India’s position on Kashmir for decades, is Delhi’s gateway to Mediterranean, North Africa, Southern Europe and even parts of West Asia. Cyprus is the 8th largest FDI investor in India. From April 2000 to June 2017, the cumulative investment flows to India from Cyprus were $ 9.278 billion. The FDI is mainly in the sectors of construction and real estate activities.

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Indo-Czech ties spans across sectors from culture to investment to Indology. Indian companies have invested in Czech Republic in sectors like IT, vehicles,tea, textile, pharmaceutical, auto-components. Following on the original investments of Skoda Auto, Skoda Power and Tatra, there are a number of new and prospective Czech investment projects in India in the machinery, transportation, power and automotive sectors. Czech Republic is among developed economies of Europe which is keen to push trade envelope with India.

Serbia, one of inheritor states of Yugoslavia, is keen to bring old memories back and is only European nation that offers 30-day visa free entry to Indians. The decision has enabled certain manufacturers and Indian film industry to take advantage of European location. Similarly, Bulgaria too is emerging as a popular destination for the film industry. President will be accompanied by a strong business delegation to Bulgaria. The country is providing platform for IT industry and cyber security related applications.

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Three other countries in that region – Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – are also seeking to attract India to Eastern and Central Europe. Hungary and Poland had also witnessed high level visits from Delhi in last few years. These three together with Czech Republic forms a group – V-4 or Visegrad-4 (all EU member states) for the purposes of advancing military, cultural, economic and energy cooperation with one another along with furthering their integration in the EU.

Persons familiar with the V-4 told ET that the group provides India an appropriate platform to engage with Eastern and Central Europe amid China's 16+1 process for the region. All four nations in the Visegrád Group have a very high Human Development Index V4 countries have enjoyed more or less steady economic growth. If counted as a single nation state, the Visegrád Group would be the fifth largest economy in Europe and the 12th largest in the world presenting India with a huge opportunity. Interestingly within the EU, the V4 countries are pro-nuclear power. They have sought to counter what they see as an anti-nuclear power bias within the EU believing their countries would benefit from nuclear power's zero emissions and high reliability.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreign-trade/india-plans-to-boost-economic-partnership-with-southern-europe-to-counter-chinas-bri/articleshow/65564128.cms

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