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The Warsaw Voice » Other » January 16, 2008
Special National Section: INDIA IN POLAND
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January 16, 2008   
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Chandra Mohan Bhandari, India's ambassador to Poland and Lithuania, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

India, the world's largest democracy, is an economic success story. How do you assess India's regional and global position and its influence on the international arena?

We are a large, democratic country of 1.1 billion people. We are also an extremely diverse country in terms of religion, ethnicity, languages and living conditions. Despite India's diversity we still manage to function democratically. The fact that a government can leave graciously after an electoral defeat shows our level of maturity. I think that we set a good example.

This is obviously good for our own country but it's also good for our region and indeed for the rest of the world, especially today when we see some countries where the people's verdict is not honored but manipulated. We are very fortunate and our politicians have to be admired for always honoring the people's verdict. Political stability is therefore assured in India. Everybody predicted instability when India formed its first coalition government in 1996 but the opposite has proved true.

This is the strength of unity in diversity. We have shown that the more representative you are, the more stable you are. This has also helped our economic development because all political parties are agreed that we need a free economy.

India's success lies in the fact that the public and private sectors work hand in hand. This partnership is moving the economy forward and, because we are a large market, our internal consumption capacity is huge. At the same time, we have an industrial infrastructure in place that is able to produce competitive goods and compete on the international market. We are competing with the developed nations of Europe and America. India today is an international focal point for investment and the second most favored location worldwide. Today we are a trillion-dollar economy and we are confident that we will continue to grow, at our current growth rate of 9 percent in the past two years. The major challenge for the government is uplifting those people living below the poverty line. So while we are moving forward with a high growth rate, and while we do have a large population that qualify as middle class, we also have an equally sizable population of about 22-25 percent who are still below the poverty line and we really need to work. So that is the government's challenge and our focus for the next 10 years will be on education and rural development. So that is where our country is headed and this is also having a regional and global impact.

How do you see India-Poland relations developing, particularly in light of the visit to your country this month by Polish deputy economy minister Adam Szejnfeld?

Our two countries have long had very close relations, even prior to independence. The Sanskrit [the classical language of India] Chair at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow was established in 1891.

So I am very happy to say that there are very strong cultural and traditional bonds between us. I also believe our family value systems are very similar.

Mr. Szejnfeld's visit is most welcome from the new government. He was invited to the Partnership Summit organized by the apex Chamber of Commerce of India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). This is the largest chamber of commerce in India and the summit is an annual event attended by representatives of countries worldwide which have a stake in India or in which India has a stake, attended also every year by a who's who of Indian industry, as well as their international partners.

Mr. Szejnfeld's visit is an opportunity to network there and see what is happening on the Indian economic scene.

I hope that the visit will set in train regular exchanges of business delegations between our two countries.

What are India's main commercial interests in Poland?

India primarily exports textiles to Poland but we also have greenfield investments here. Most of our IT companies have set up offices here. What is impressive is that they employ only Polish engineers. Apart from the head of the company, everyone is a Polish graduate. They find that it is much better to train local people. They not only service the Polish market, but also the European market and even American contracts from Poland. Poland is seen as a strategic location for the EU market, and with a bit of initiative from the Polish side in terms of finding mutual interests and offering incentives to get companies from India here, a very profitable partnership can develop.

The reality is that the world today is highly competitive and every country has to compete to survive. The entire EU is competing and Indian companies are therefore on the lookout for the best terms. So it would be in Poland's long-term interests for the Polish government to take pro-active steps to attract private investors and perhaps even offer them special incentives. This is because these companies provide employment. This is another reason why this visit is so important. The Indian private sector should be able to project their point of view and state the kind of terms they are looking for to ensure that both sides benefit.

Celebrating the Republic Day of India on Jan. 26 has become something of a tradition in Warsaw. What is planned for this year's celebrations?

We became independent on Aug. 15, 1947, when the British left and handed over power to the government of India, and we declared ourselves a republic on Jan. 26, 1950. Celebrations are usually low key in Poland because January is winter here. We will be holding a reception in Warsaw on Jan. 28 where entry is by invitation only. There will be a public function at my residence on Jan. 26 at 10:30 a.m. where the flag will be raised and the President of India's speech, given the previous evening, will be read out. All my compatriots are cordially invited to attend.

Do many people from India visit Poland?
Indians are big-time travelers these days. They usually take two-four week European tours that might include a couple of days in Poland. They mainly like to see the history and culture and get a feel for the country.
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