Ambassador Sanjay Rana: India and Azerbaijan enjoy warm and friendly relations
Baku, January 25, AZERTAC
India and Azerbaijan enjoy warm and friendly relations. Their bilateral cooperation is growing in all spheres, including political, economic, educational and cultural, Indian ambassador in Baku Sanjay Rana in an exclusive interview with AZERTAC`s correspondent.
Rana also emphasized that both countries have regular political consultations and meetings of Inter-Governmental Commission to discuss economic and commercial cooperation: "Our Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. M.J. Akbar, visited Baku in November 2017 and had excellent meetings with Honourable President of Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov. They discussed a number of areas where the bilateral relations could be expanded. We would like to have more high-level visits between the two countries and we are working towards this direction."
He also explained that relations both India and Azerbaijan are making significant strides in economic area and they have much to offer to each other. "Our bilateral trade in 2017 was around US$ 550 million, which included around US$ 100 million of Indian exports to Azerbaijan and around US$ 450 million worth of Azerbaijani exports to India. But when seen in comparison to the sizes of our economy, our bilateral trade is much below the potential and could be developed much more. Similarly, the exchange of tourists is growing but there is much scope for growth. We have identified transportation, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, petrochemical industry, agriculture and animal husbandry, and Information Technology as the areas with focus areas for boosting mutually beneficial cooperation," the ambassador pointed out.
He mentioned the International North-South and East-West Transport Corridors, saying "Azerbaijan has a special geographical location at the intersection of the corridors."
Mr. Sanjay Rana hailed the inauguration of the Baku- Tbilisi- Kars railway line describing it as "an important hub for transportation." "India, along with Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, has been jointly developing the North-South Transport Corridor. We would like more and more freight forwarders to use this route. This would require streamlining the flow of the cargo traffic by making the custom procedures faster and providing reasonable tariffs so that using this route becomes an attractive proposition for the freight forwarders. These are some of the issues that are discussed in the INSTC meetings. A team from ADY Express is visiting India to participate in Cargo Transport Logistics Conference being held in Mumbai where these issues will be discussed."
Speaking about several fields where both countries can benefit from mutual cooperation the diplomat said: "India and Azerbaijan have complementary strengths in many areas."
The Ambassador highlighted some areas for possible expansion of cooperation between Azerbaijan and India: "Our focus is on non-oil sector like agriculture and animal breeding, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and IT services for e-governance. These sectors are also receiving good support from the Azerbaijani government."
"India has been ready to share its developmental experience and we undertake many capacity building courses under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme."
Singling out pharmaceutical field, the diplomat said: "India is very strong in pharmaceutical sector and our companies are keen to enhance their presence in Azerbaijan. Indian companies have been open to investment opportunities in this sector. Sun Pharma of India is building a pharmaceutical factory near Baku in a joint venture with Azerbaijani partners. Azerbaijani Government is providing many incentives for investors in Technology and Agro Parks and Indian companies have shown interest.
On a treaty to be signed between Azerbaijan and India, at governmental level, Mr. Ambassador said: "The two sides are working to sign a Bilateral Investment Treaty and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement which would enhance the confidence of investors. As fast growing economies with exciting opportunities for investors in a number of sectors, both countries can definitely benefit from mutual investment."
The diplomat applauded Azerbaijan's initiatives in the energy sector: "Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline and now the Southern Gas Corridor have been very important for regional energy security. India and Azerbaijan are partners in oil sector as our ONGC Videsh has a share in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG oil fields), and were signatory to the amended Contract of the Century signed in September 2017. Indian companies are also interested in the gas sector. Our gas major Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has signed an MoU with SOCAR for cooperation in LNG procurement and promotion. India is a major importer of oil and gas and as our economy grows, our import needs are bound to grow. So there would be growing cooperation between us in this area in coming years."
Sanjay Rana mentioned that India and Azerbaijan are blessed to have a great deal of natural love and warmth among their people for each other. "Even casual Indian tourists here tell us about the warmth and hospitality of people of Azerbaijan."
"This is perhaps built over several centuries of interaction and shared heritage; our culture, cuisine and customs have influenced each other at a deep level. 'Ateshgah' monuments are witness as well as sign of our past and historical relations. Strengthening these people-to-people relations in present times is a priority for us. We make efforts to make travel to each other's countries easier. Both India and Azerbaijan have started online Visa from 2017 which has greatly helped in the tourists travel. We exchange cultural delegations; a number of Indian dance and music groups came to Baku last year for the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. We celebrate Indian Festivals in Azerbaijan and join in the celebrations of local festivities, like Novruz which we share," he said.
On cooperation in educational sector, he highlighted scholarships offered by Indian universities: "We have capacity building programmes for professionals and scholarships of students under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme. Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) provides fully paid scholarships for Azerbaijani students in prestigious Indian universities. We have invited Azerbaijani students to apply for these courses. The last date for applying for the scholarships is 28 February 2018. I am happy to inform that a course on Azerbaijan's multiculturalism is being undertaken in India at Sri Sri University in Odisha," Ambassador Rana added.