Nalbandian: Racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance grossly violate human dignity and give rise to tensions within and between societies. That is why the fight against them became one of the main priorities of our chairmanship.
ArmInfo’s interview with Ambassador of India to Armenia Suresh Babu
by Marianna Mkrtchyan
What do you think about the current level of Armenian-Indian relations?
India and Armenia have successfully completed over two decades of diplomatic relations since 1991. Ties between our two countries though date back to centuries but their contemporary relationship had started in 1992. In the last twenty plus years, both countries have proved to be close friends and partners not only at the Government level but also at the people to people level. India and Armenia support each other at the international and multilateral levels to the extent possible. This relationship is non-prescriptive and covers almost all aspects i.e. political, cultural, and economic, education, science, trade and development. In last few years, we have had a number of high level bilateral exchanges. The successful visit by a high level Parliamentary delegation from Armenia to India in December 2013 led by H.E. Mr. Hovik Abrahmyan, the Chairman of the National Assembly, was the latest high level contact. Prior to this, the Armenian National Assembly hosted the visit of a Goodwill Indian Parliamentarian delegation to Armenia led by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs in October last year. During both these visits, the delegations were received by the highest leadership in both countries. This is a testimony to the fact that both countries enjoy excellent political ties. Besides these visits, we also exchanged visits at the level of senior officials at the Government level. They included the visit of Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia to India for Political Consultations and for the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) meeting in September 2013.
What are the priorities of the Armenian-Indian cooperation for the moment?
During the recent interactions, both sides have agreed to sustain the momentum generated in the last few years at various levels and to elevate our cooperation to new levels. Several visits are under consideration for this year and these visits will be of political, education, culture and economic in nature. Given the low level of bilateral trade, one of the priorities for this year will be mutual endeavour to further augment the bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
What new projects are our countries planning in the IT sector?
Information & Communication Technologies is among core sectors of economy for both India and Armenia. Both countries possess well trained and skilled IT personnel. As a first concrete step in this sphere, we had jointly set up an ICT Centre of Excellence in Yerevan in 2011 which is equipped with an Indian Super Computer ‘Param’. Since then, the Centre has been functioning effectively as a revenue making model by catering to needs of Armenian consumers. Over 70 schools in the Tavush region have been equipped with Indian computer labs in 2012. Both sides are currently in the process of replicating the Tavush model in one more region in Armenia. " A 12 member delegation from the Indian IT Companies visited Armenia in December 2013 to explore the strengths of the Armenian IT sector. During the visit, a B2B session was held which also included visits to various Armenian IT companies and individual business meetings."
Are you satisfied with the current level of Armenian-Indian ties in the health care sector. What projects are you considering in pharmaceutics?
Healthcare is one of the priority sectors of bilateral cooperation. Large numbers of Indian students are receiving medical education in the Yerevan State Medical University. A delegation of experts from the Medical Council of India visited the YSMU in 2013 and is believed to be satisfied with the education facilities offered there. A couple of bilateral cooperation documents in the Healthcare sector are in the pipeline for conclusion. In this context, both Indian and Armenian sides are in the process of concluding a bilateral MoU for executing a ‘Telemedicine’ project in Armenia. It may be noted that a large number of Armenian companies are engaged in cooperation for promotion of Indian pharmaceutical products in the Armenian market. Considering the growing interest in the Armenian healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors, a large delegation of Indian Pharma companies is expected to visit Yerevan in early February this year to study and explore the potential for trading, setting up joint production and R&D.
India is among the countries with well-organized Armenian communities. What role do Armenians play in your country’s social and political life?
Similar to a large number of countries in the world, India is also privileged to be the home for Armenian community. Armenians are no strangers for the Indian society for over three centuries. Volumes may be written on the Armenian presence in India. In modern times, Kolkata and Chennai host the presence of the Armenian community consisting of over 35 families and which have penetrated into the Indian social life. There is a functioning Church, School in Kolkata where not only Armenians but also others do worship and study. Besides, there are numbers of Armenian nationals either studying in various educational institutions of India or married to Indian nationals.