India supports resolution of NK conflict under OSCE MG Co-Chairmanship: Ambassador's exclusive interview to ARMENPRESS
YEREVAN, JULY 8, ARMENPRESS. India supports the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict through the OSCE Minsk Group under the Chairmanship of three Co-Chairs - USA, France and Russia, H.E. Kishan Dan Dewal, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to Armenia, said in an exclusive interview to ARMENPRESS on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Presenting his country’s principled position on any bilateral dispute or conflict, the Ambassador said that any bilateral dispute should be resolved through peaceful negotiations, through diplomatic dialogue and through mutual understanding. “There is no place for war”, he says. “There is no place for threat of force, there is no place for use of violence, we are strictly against it”.
Touching upon the possibility of forming a strategic partnership between Armenia and India, Kishan Dan Dewal said that the political relations between the two countries are strong and are going to get stronger now.
ARMENPRESS presents the 2nd part of the interview with the Indian Ambassador below:
To read the 1st part of the interview, click the following link:
- Mr. Dewal, what other current and potential projects can the two countries initiate or implement together in the key areas of cooperation, as political dialogue, transport, economic and trade, culture and education or other spheres of mutual interest?
- That’s a very long list.
- I’m sorry, it is.
- That’s quite long list, but I can just tell that both countries have great potential in many fields. First of all is the political sphere, where we need to enhance, increase our political interaction to the highest possible level. When Foreign Minister visited India, he carried with him an invitation from Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for our Prime Minister. So, we are working on increasing our political context. That is one.
On educational sphere, as I mentioned you, Armenia has limitations in terms of receiving more students because of the number of seats that could be offered to foreign students yet and for which more infrastructure is needed, but because of the Ukraine crisis we expect more Indian students coming this year.
On cultural sphere we are working on many projects and, as I mentioned to you, I would like to show more India to Armenian people and also more Armenia to our Indian people. That is on the cultural aspect.
Lastly, I want to mention that our trade between India and Armenia right now has touched almost 180 million US dollars. It is very less compared to our other trade partners, but there's a very positive trend which has gone and there's a huge potential to fulfill the demands of Armenian society in Armenian market from India especially when we see the crisis in the near neighborhood and we are ready to offer our all kind of support and all kind of products that can be useful for the Armenian economy and also we’d like to get more Armenian stuff in the Indian market, right now it is very less.
And thirdly, both countries are working on opening trade corridors, working on bringing more contact through our connectivity projects and especially through the international North-South Transport Corridor and using Chabahar port in Iran which India has developed. So, we are working on this aspect as well.
- The trade and economy are always key components of bilateral relations between countries, aren’t they?
- Yes, they are stimulus. See, I mean unless you have some economic interest, the political relations don’t move on their own. So, I’d say that economy is the stimulus for any society. I mean, you and me are working because of economy. Of course, also because of the love towards country, but economy is a very strong stimulus. So, unless economic and trade relations are strong, unless there are potential, other fields don’t move that fast, I would say.
- Nations like Armenia and India – we know more about culture, history, but you cannot cease to be a part of modern world, especially when you are talking about developing bilateral relations between the countries. I was reading recently about Armenian-Indian mutual trade: according to the Statistical Committee of Armenia, ArmStat, the trade turnover between Armenia and India amounted about $181 million in 2021. This is a very good dynamic, but I don’t know the content of this trade, what is fostering, activating the trade between the two countries. Can you mention specific data?
- In the last 3-4 years, there is more and more realization in the Armenian economy, that India is supplying to the world all kinds of products, including medicine among pharmaceutical products. We exported this year COVID vaccines, textile, food items, you name it and we are there, also the IT services. Now there is an interest among Armenian businessmen to engage India more and more and that is why we see very good upward trend in our trade figures in the last years. Specifically, in the last years there has been more export from Armenia to India than from India to Armenia, and quite a big chunk of it is gold export.
- This year is notable also for the Indian nation, as India celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Independence. India has acquired a prominent role in international relations. Prime Minister Modi has put forward several initiatives domestically and internationally. Could you please present some of the most important?
- As you know this in August 2022, we will be completing 75 years of our Independence; it is a very big and important milestone for us. This will also give us satisfaction as a nation that we have come a long way after our Independence. When we got independence in 1947, we were a country with 12% of literacy rate, and now our literacy rate is touching 80%. That time India was in a very poor economic condition, today we are the 6th largest economy in the world. We were struggling even to provide basic food and necessities to our countrymen, today we are a food surplus producing country, we are exporting food to the world. So we have achieved many, many things in the last 75 years, including our achievements in science and technology, defense and other fields. But to celebrate these occasions, our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has initiated and guided us to start some new initiatives. I will name some of them.
One of them is called “Atmanirbhar Bharat” – self-independent India. There is a move to make India self-independent in any field, whatever we are importing, now we are trying to make it within India. So that comes to our next program, which is called “Make in India”. They are intertwined, once you want to become self-independent, then the program “Make in India” comes, and in “Make in India” we are trying to bring technologies from all over the world, from friendly countries, who are ready to share with us, and also we are inventing our own new innovative ideas, making those services and products in India.
Thirdly, we have stated what is called “Startup India”, new initiative by the Government of India to encourage new business ideas, innovative ideas, and give them support, governmental support and all other facilitation, for youngsters. By this “Startup India” there has been a very very positive progress. Within last 3 years many unicorns have appeared in India after this initiative has taken off.
Fourthly, our Prime Minister Modi has given very much emphasis on cleanliness within our country, for which we have started “Swachh Bharat” that is Clean India movement and almost every person is now a part of this mass movement, where we are trying to make our country not look like any other developing country, but look like any other modern developed country, giving signal that India is now moving ahead in all spheres of life.
- How is the pandemic situation in India now in terms of the fight against COVID-19?
- As you know COVID-19 has impacted the whole world and we are no exception to it, it started from Wuhan, China, but has taken over the entire world and you have seen how situations were difficult in Europe, in Italy, in US, so we were not exception. In first surge of the pandemic we were able to contain it to great extent, but the second wave was little difficult for us, but with our own local resources and management we were able to overcome that difficult time. Not only did we overcome ourselves, but we exported and supplied medicines, pharmaceuticals and vaccines to the entire world, we also gave as donations to many friendly countries, we supported this under “Vaccine Maitri” program, that is Vaccine friendship, under that program we sent help to more than 70 friendly countries. Once we overcome this situation, the third wave came to India, but because of our preparations there was less loss of lives and we were able to contain it very very fast and in today’s time while we are talking we have resorted back to our normal life, normal economic activities and everything is almost back to normal, we have opened our airports, flights are going and now we are inviting tourists also.
- So, in general, we can say that situation is more improved, better than one or two years ago in terms of coronavirus, isn’t it?
- I would say that situation in India has normalized, while we are speaking today, the total number of COVID-19 cases are now coming every day to 2000, which is miniscule for Indian population, it’s not threatening. Because of our vaccine program, where we have vaccinated majority of our eligible population, coronavirus pandemic has subsided and it is going to go down. We hope that it will not come back.
- Coming to the regional political issues: India was always active and observant concerning Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the regional security in South Caucasus. Indian MFA in May 2021 and Minister Jaishankar during his visit to Yerevan in October 2021 made important statements regarding Azerbaijan’s military encroachment into Armenia’s territory and India’s support to the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict within the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship. It would be very interesting to know what are the main priorities of India in our region and your country’s approaches to the long-lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
- As you know we have always supported peaceful resolution of any bilateral dispute or conflict, Nagorno Karabakh is no exception for us and officially it has been our position and it continues, that any bilateral dispute should be resolved through peaceful negotiations, through diplomatic dialogue and through mutual understanding. There is no place for war, there is no place for threat of force, there is no place for use of violence, we are strictly against it. That is one.
Secondly, we have always supported the OSCE Minsk Group format, because this is the internationally recognized format, which is acceptable to Armenia and which we also support and we welcome their efforts to find long-lasting solution to this issue. So we continue to support the resolution through the OSCE Minsk Group under the Chairmanship of three Co-Chairs (USA, France and Russia).
Apart from this, as you know, wherever we found that there was international law violation, we have issued very strong statements, they are on our website, you can refer to it, and we have issued statement on couple of occasions. When our Foreign Minister was in Armenia in October 2021, we referred to this issue and we have made our position very clear on this.
- And as we see, we have very tough dynamic international and regional issues. How much these recent developments and processes around our region impact on this kind of issues in your perception? How do you see these processes in Caucasus, around Caucasus?
- I would say that South Caucasus for us is our extended neighbourhood. Peace and stability in this region is in our interest and this is what we expect and we hope that it will remain like this and peace and stability is not only in the interest of any country, it is also in interest of your country, it is in Armenia’s interest, if peace and tranquility and stability remain in this area. As regards new developments, our Government, my Foreign Ministry is fully aware of what is happening in the region, we are keeping watch, we have principled position on resolution of conflicts, but we would welcome if any peace process takes place through which lasting solution can be found out, we will certainly support such a position.
- Yerevan and New Delhi seem to share common interests also in regional, political and security areas. As we all know, there is an ongoing conflict around Kashmir region with Pakistan’s destructive role. In this regard, Armenia has always supported India on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, as Armenian officials stated permanently. On the other hand, the other well-known fact is that Pakistan is a close ally of Azerbaijan and Turkey supporting Azerbaijani side in Nagorno Karabakh conflict, including the 2020 war against the Artsakh Republic. Therefore, Armenia highly appreciates India’s principled position and continuous support for the peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh issue. On your opinion, what can be done to build a strategic partnership between Armenia and India in terms of political and military-technical cooperation to address common challenges and threat perceptions?
- Good question. A difficult one, but I’ll try to answer. First of all, I thank the Government of Armenia and Armenian people for being very supportive to the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. That is very important to be underlined. In the recent past we have made a domestic legislation, through which the former state of Jammu and Kashmir is now a Union Territory, i.e. administered from the Center, Union Territory of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. As regards the role of Pakistan, as you are aware and everyone else is aware, that Pakistan has been making transport of terrorism into our territory, and we have been able to thwart those efforts continuously. I am happy to share with you that in the last 2 years, when J & K has become a Union Territory, along with Ladakh, the incidents of terrorism have been controlled to a great extent and the support that earlier they were getting is not any more there, I mean, the support of some vested local elements which they were getting, they are not getting anymore. The people of Jammu and Kashmir fully understand that their prosperity lies in peace. Because of new legislation applicable to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir now have been enacted for this Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, because of this new change and there is positive change, there is economic growth, there is peace in the area.
On the second part of the question, I wish to reiterate that I have mentioned, that our political relations are strong, they are going to get stronger now, we share a lot of common concerns and common interests, there are platforms to exchange views on those concerns. One of such platforms is Foreign Office consultations, which we regularly conduct and this year we conducted a few months back in India and in Armenia, and also high-level visits and high-level meetings are also a very positive signal in this direction. As regards any other common platforms and strategies, I think both sides are working on this and as and when we feel that we will have any such dialogue, we will be willing to do that. Now we are working very actively to engage Armenia more politically.
- In this context, one of the recent significant news is that you met with Suren Papikyan, Armenian Minister of Defense, as far as I remember you were talking about developing the cooperation in defense sphere. Could you tell us more detailed about this discussion, how the cooperation in defense is going to be enlarged between Armenia and India?
- As regards defense cooperation, there is interest from Armenian side to have more defense ties, which we understand, and as you know, we have already initiated such cooperation. I visited Mr. Papikyan as a courtesy, as he took over newly as a Defense Minister, it was more like a courtesy call rather than any detailed discussion, but both sides are moving in positive direction.
- Do we have already substantial military cooperation between the two countries or are we going to create them? As much as you can talk about publicly.
- As I mentioned, we are working positively, there is no need to give details in this interview, but both sides are working to safeguard each other’s interest, that is very important, and secondly, to have strong partnership in all possible fields, which I mentioned earlier and when we say all possible fields, defense is also one of them, on which we are working.
- Armenia participates in Iran’s initiative of “Persian Gulf – Black Sea” international transit corridor project along with Iran, Georgia, Greece and Bulgaria. We are aware that Indian side’s interest in this initiative was one of the topics discussed with the Armenian side during Minister Jaishankar’s visit to Yerevan. Could you comment this information and present India’s position on its possible involvement in “Persian Gulf – Black Sea”?
- Yes, sure. During the visit of our Foreign Minister, the issue of connectivity was discussed between both the sides, and there was great interest shown by Armenia to have direct connectivity with India and we appreciate your position and we appreciate your concern also. As regards our position, we are member of International North-South Transport Corridor, INSTC, which passes through Iran, and we would like Armenia to be directly connected with India by whatever method or whatever way it is possible. As regards the Persian Gulf – Black Sea corridor, on this officially we are yet to get the proposal from Armenian side, but the talks are there. As you know, we have developed Chabahar port in Iran with Indian investment and Chabahar port can be very, very valuable asset for Armenia for transit of its goods, which can come through Iranian territory to Armenia and further to the Black Sea. In that way we are positively inclined and will discuss this with your side.
- So it’s a real possibility, Chabahar port is going to connect with Persian Gulf and that’s how India can be involved, right?
- Yes, this is what I said, we have developed Chabahar port with Indian investment and we would like Chabahar port to be utilized by Armenia for the benefit of both the countries, for the benefit of Armenia and its people and for the benefit of India and its people. If you use Chabahar to connect from here to Black Sea, we would be more than happy to see more connectivity between India and Armenia.
- Can we assume that through these kind of projects, Indian market is going to connect through our region with Europe? I mean we are talking about the great road from the East to the West, aren’t we?
- Yes, the purpose of the International North-South Transport Corridor was exactly the same, to connect India through this route with Europe, and the use of Chabahar port, certainly will bring Indian market closer to Europe, and European market closer to India.
- You mean Armenia also can benefit from this corridor, right?
- Yes, this is exactly what I said, you are on the way, you are a transit country, so not only to look at Europe as market for transit only, but you should also see that you can import goods directly from India using this route.
- In that context, we would like also to know your views on India’s activities and projects in the North-South International Transit Corridor program, as well its link with mentioned “Persian Gulf – Black Sea” initiative.
- As you know, India is one of the founding members of the International North-South Transit Corridor and the idea is to connect Indian ports through Persian Gulf and from Persian Gulf, using the land territory towards Russia and towards the European market. Now there have been lots of discussions and talks and work on this and it is still undergoing and we are looking forward for fully operationalization of this route.
- We talked a lot about politics, economy, but I see a lot of interesting pictures, and one of this is Mount Ararat. Is that you on the photo? If I am not mistaken you have reached the top of Ararat, haven’t you? Can you please talk about it, about your feelings when you reached the top?
- In this picture you see me on the top of Mount Ararat, in August 2021 I went to Mount Ararat along with an Armenian group, I was fortunate enough to climb to the top, and from Ararat I could see Yerevan.
- And your impressions?
- Impression, I would say, it was amazing feeling, when you reach the top you see the world with everybody down there, so you feel on the top of the world. That is one. Secondly, you feel so small, because you see huge mountains around and you are small piece of blood and muscles standing on top of a mountain. So that makes you very humble when you go on top of a mountain and you think for short while, you start think about philosophy, but I must say that it was a very unique experience, spiritual one and going on the top and seeing from there the surroundings, it’s difficult to express in words. We were 6 o’clock in the morning on the top and the sun was shining as if it was 12 o’clock, it was so bright, it was very bright. And I took my Indian flag and the symbol of India @75, as we are celebrating India’s 75th anniversary of independence.
- Wasn’t it hard to climb one of the highest mountains?
- It was not too difficult, but it was hard, difficulty level was, I would say, it was not for beginners, first of all, you need some preparation for that, the last leg of climb was bit difficult.
- What other hobbies do you have, apart from climbing the mountains and going to nature?
- Climbing mountain is one of my foremost hobbies, I have also been to your highest point - Aragats, 3 peaks, one I think I should do it this year, apart from this all your other smaller mountains, apart from hiking I am also little bit into music, I play some instrument.
- Which instrument?
- I play guitar and as a hobby I sing a bit.
- Raj Kapoor’s songs?
- No, my own songs. I am also into running, sports, I am going to run half marathon this Sunday.
- This is also a good chance to present other musicians’ songs, we know some, but maybe there are other important musicians or singers that we don’t know in Armenia.
- Yes, that is why we are now trying to make a cultural forum, where we could present more modern Indian cultural aspect, including from Bollywood to the Armenian population. There are many new artists, which Armenian people are not yet aware about.
- Could you share your knowledge about Armenian culture, Armenian music or literature? Have you explored?
- Frankly literature I have not read much, though I have read some translations of Charents and since the language is a barrier, I could not read original in Armenian. As regards music, I am hearing your traditional Armenian music, including instrumental on duduk, etc. and some compositions of Komitas I have heard and they are quite impressive.
- Is Komitas well-known in the East, in India?
- I would be very frank with you, if somebody has interest in music, only those would know some master artist of music or any other field. So in India certainly those who have interest in classical music, or western music, they will certainly know about Komitas, but of course, not everybody knows him. For that matter, in India many people don’t know about our own artists as well.
- What about Indian traditional instruments. Have you ever tried to play any Indian traditional instrument?
- One instrument is called sitar, it’s a string instrument. I don’t play any Indian instrument, but in our cultural center we are teaching some Indian instruments and there are many Armenians who are playing sitar, which is very heartening to see. Sitar is a string instrument, very classical one, typical Indian and as I mentioned we did a concert some time back here, in which sitar was played by one Armenian, Peter Davidian, of Armenian origin, but citizen of Australia, so he played sitar for us.
- Who are better singers, Indian singers or Armenian?
- Both styles are different. Indian style is typical Indian, both are unique in their own way, it’s difficult to compare.
- Coming to the end of our interview, main topic is the anniversary of diplomatic relations, you mentioned some events already implemented.
- One event.
- What other events are going to be conducted on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and India?
- As I mentioned, I will repeat the same, we are trying to host a Gala concert of Indian music and dance in Armenia. That’s one. Two, we are planning to host an Armenian group in India, three – both sides are trying to bring out stamps commemorating the 30th anniversary, stamps by your Postal body and from our Post office. I will be organizing one reception on this occasion, or we will work with your colleagues in Foreign Office, maybe we’ll do a joint reception. Also we should not isolate that this is the 30th anniversary, I would say this year whatever event we do, it is part of our 30th anniversary celebration, including visit of Honorable Foreign Minister to India. This is also part of our celebration.
- Do you have something to address to the Armenian audience on this occasion and on Armenian-Indian relations in a wider sense?
- Sure, to our Armenian audience, I would like to say that first of all I would like to thank them for hosting me for last 3 years, it’s very friendly country, very friendly people, and I like this country very much and I have been all around, I have seen the nature of Armenia, saw the mountains, first feeling is of gratitude to Armenia and its people.
Secondly I would like to say that many Armenians, who have not visited India, their impression about India is mostly from Bollywood movies, so my request is to go to India, visit India and see from your own eyes, there are many more things which are not seen in Bollywood movies, for somebody to see real India, he has to visit India, so I would invite Armenian people to go to India, stay there, it’s not very expensive, flights unfortunately are not direct now, but in future, one Armenian airline is planning to start direct flights, then the travel will become very easy, it will be only 4.5 hours flight, can you believe it, just 4.5 hours flight to India. And from our side, the Embassy, we normally give visa in one day, we are very flexible, very friendly, if someone genuinely travelling for tourism or any other purpose, we give visas and also e-visas are available, if somebody wants to travel, he directly applies online and it is given, and if they apply to us, we will give in a very short time.
Thirdly I want to mention, which in Armenia many people are not very aware that India is a very developed country now in the medical field, and now we are promoting what is called medical tourism, for which we are getting lot of people with medical conditions for treatment in India, best of the hospitals are available for treatment in India and they are 1/5 cheaper than any European and western countries, comparable hospitals and their treatments. And from CIS region a lot of countries people are going to India for this. This I wanted you to share with people that in India we have very developed medical facilities and if they need medical assistance, they can visit India for this.
Fourthly, I want to say that India is much more than yoga, elephant, tea and Bollywood. These 4 things are important, but India is thousand times more than these 4 things, to really see what is India you see once India and I would welcome you and your people, your colleagues and all our Armenian friends to see incredible India.
- Mr. Dewal, thank you for this exceptional, exclusive chance to meet you, thank you for very interesting and useful conversation about India and Armenia, and Armenian-Indian relations. Thank you.
-Thank you very much, it was my pleasure that you came and we talked on almost everything.
Interview by Aram Sargsyan
Cameraman: Hovhannes Mkrtchyan
Photographer: Gevorg Perkuperkyan
Sound director: Tatevik Zakaryan
Video Editor: Vahagn Galstyan