D. B. Venkatesh Varma / Ambassador of India
A. Rubio. 26/01/2017
Ambassador Venkatesh Varma has just arrived in Spain, after a long diplomatic career mainly linked to disarmament issues. He intends to further strengthen bilateral relations that already enjoy excellent health.
During your first intervention as Ambassador of Spain you stated your wish to engage the Indian community more in the bilateral relations. How are you going to do this?
On the occasion of India´s Republic Day on 26th January, our warm greetings to the Indian community and all friends of India in Spain.
The Indian diaspora is a pillar of strength in bringing India and Spain closer. The Indian diaspora is varied, but they all have the will and capability of contributing to further intensifying our bilateral relations – in trade and economic relations, as well strengthening our cultural and tourism linkages. The Indian Embassy will work for closer interaction with the Indian diaspora and work for their wellbeing in Madrid and other parts of Spain.
Has the emigration of the last decades entailed a slowing down of India’s development, or conversely has it contributed to the country’s economic growth?
The Indian community, which is talented and hardworking, is respected for contributions to countries where they live, while maintaining close bonds with the country of their origin. Indian diaspora has been a valuable partner in India’s journey of development. This is one of Prime Minister Modi´s priorities, which was highlighted at the recently concluded Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in Bengaluru – a world gathering of people of Indian Origin and of Indians living abroad. The 30 million Indian diaspora globally is an asset for India and for the world.
What significance does Spain hold for India? Is it important just at an economic level or does it extend to other areas of collaboration?
India and Spain celebrated 60 years of establishment of diplomatic relations last year. We have always maintained friendly and cordial relations based on common values and admiration for the culture of both countries. Our bilateral political relations are not only problem free but there is strong desire on both sides to take them forward. India – as the world largest democracy and the fastest growing large economy in the world represents a major opportunity for Spain to extend its economic ties into Asia, looking beyond Europe and Latin America which have been its traditional focus areas. There is vast untapped potential for Spanish companies, some of which are world class to participate in and contribute to India´s growth, especially in infrastructure, smart cities, renewable energy, railways, defence, ports, among others. Cultural ties form solid basis for people to people contacts, facilitated by the direct Air India flight between Madrid and New Delhi.
Which sectors of the Indian economy are more interesting for the Spanish companies? Infrastructures, energy, transports, railways…?
Spain is India´s 7th largest trading partner in the European Union – so there is scope for improvement. We have bilateral agreements on trade and economic cooperation, bilateral investment protection and promotion, double taxation avoidance. Additionally, there are sector specific MoU´s in the areas of defence, roads and road transport, high speed railways, civil aviation, ports, agriculture and tourism. It is for Spanish companies to take advantage of the immense opportunities that are opening up in India, where the projected market for just infrastructure projects is more than a trillion dollars. India has become more business friendly. It is therefore no surprise that India has replaced China as the leading recipient of capital investment in the Asia Pacific. India´s GDP is expected to grow between 7 and 8% between 2017 and 2021. Its young and talented work force is growing and will be the largest for the next three decades. Spanish competencies and India´s complementarities provide an attractive and winning combination.
We are working to strengthen the cultural and academic exchanges
What effect has the Spain-India Council Foundation had in the 3 years it has been running?
The Spain-India Council Foundation, has been a great support and source of strength to our bilateral relations, whether it is in the commercial, political, or cultural field. Under its Indian Leaders Programme, SICF has been successful in forming a strong link with the Indian civil society as well.
The amount of Indian students coming to Spain has increased. Will there be new initiatives to promote cultural exchanges?
We are working to strengthen the cultural and academic exchanges. An MoU on setting up of a Hindi Chair at the University of Valladolid has been signed and the classes have started last year. University of Valladolid has an on-going arrangement with the University of Ahmedabad in the areas of heritage conservation and management. The Institute of Indology in Madrid conducts regular academic activities focused on India, the most important of these being the Summer Courses and the Autumn Courses on India. Casa de la India and Casa Asia are strong pillars of support for our bilateral relations.
You are an expert in disarmament. In one of your recent statements in Geneva, you pointed out India’s “highest priority to nuclear disarmament”. However, India has never joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and according to experts the country maintains a nuclear arsenal of approximately 80 warheads. Is India’s position contradictory or does the contradiction lie within the NPT?
India remains committed to the goal of universal and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament. There are historic reasons why India did not sign the NPT, which are well known. However, there is no contradiction between that Treaty´s objectives and India´s policy of strengthening the international non-proliferation regime and this has been recognised in the strong support we have received from a large number of countries including Spain for India´s membership of the four export control regimes. India has also supported full implementation of UNSC resolution 1540 and we commend Spanish leadership on this issue when it was member of the UNSC in 2016.