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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » December 21, 2011
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A Cold Country of Warm People
December 21, 2011   
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Monika Kapil Mohta, India’s ambassador to Poland, talks to Ewa Hancock.

You have been in Poland for five months now. What is your impression of the country?
Poland for me is a cold country which is inhabited by very warm people. I have an emotional connection with the country because of members of my family who have been very close to Poland and I think it was part of my karma to come to Poland as ambassador, and I am extremely proud and privileged to be representing India in Poland, a country which is emerging as an extremely important force to reckon with in the region and in Europe as a whole. I am very impressed with the strides that have been made by Poland in its developmental efforts. I’m also extremely impressed with the fact that Poland has a very strong voice today, not only as the presidency of the EU but also as a very responsible, mature and stable economy of Europe, a very strong voice in steering the region in the right direction.

I also think that Poland has a very special affinity with India in certain areas. For instance, I am extremely impressed with the very rich and old tradition of Indology in this country, which dates back to the 1870s, when a chair of Sanskrit was set up at Jagiellonian University in Cracow. I think this is a country which really believes in its tradition of scholarship and research, particularly of the Orient, and there are huge efforts being made today to create a better awareness and understanding of contemporary India in this country. Since my arrival, I have been received with overwhelming warmth and hospitality across the country.

I have traveled extensively during my five months here. I was extremely impressed with the Tricity region—Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot—the three cities on the Baltic, and I have also visited Cracow, Kielce, D±browa Górnicza, Sosnowiec, Katowice, Mr±gowo and Toruń, as well as Stalowa Wola for the Norblin exhibition. There is a Polish painter who is extremely famous in India; his name is Stefan Norblin. He painted some of the maharajas’ palaces immediately in the postwar period. I have met a cross-section of people. What I find most admirable is the strong sense of national and cultural identity.

How would you summarize Indian-Polish relations and how do you see them developing in the future?
India-Poland relations have always been warm and friendly and multi-faceted. In recent years, we have witnessed an upswing in the relations because of the high-level visits between the two countries—our President, Ms. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, visited Poland in April 2009 and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk traveled to India in September 2010. Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski’s visit to India in July 2011 re-energized our ties.

Trade and economic relations between India and Poland are expanding rapidly with bilateral trade in 2010 reaching a figure of $1.4 billion, and we hope to be able to double that figure by about 2015.

There are many Indian companies that are looking at investing in Poland, and every month we get a lot of requests from Indian companies, inquiries relating to investment opportunities in Poland. So I think that we are on a very positive track when it comes to trade and investment, and there’s no doubt that—as more and more people in India get information about how stable the Polish economy is, how well Poland is doing in terms of its own economic route, particularly in a region which is fraught with a financial crisis at the moment—there will certainly be a higher and incremental interest in investing in Poland.

Our defense relationship is tried and trusted; we have traditional defense ties. Poland has both the capacity and the willingness to deliver to India upgraded defense technologies, which we require in certain areas. So it’s a relationship that will certainly have a very bright and very promising future.

There is a rich tradition of Indology in Poland and tremendous goodwill generated through people-to-people contact. Poland has recently opened a Polish cultural institute in Delhi and a center for Indian contemporary studies at the University of Warsaw. The Vistula University has also opened a center of Indo-European studies. These are all very impressive developments. We hope to be able to open an Indian cultural center in Poland in the near future as well as support the center through sub-centers in Cracow and Gdańsk. India is already supporting three chairs of Indian studies—two at the University of Warsaw and one at the Jagiellonian University, and we hope to get into a most productive and collaborative relationship in the center of contemporary studies at the University of Warsaw.

India is one of the five emerging powers—the so-called BRICS economies—alongside Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa. How are you coping with the global economic crisis?
The Indian economy has not been impacted by the global economic crisis in any significant way, with the economy expected to grow by more than 7 percent this year. India, because of its huge domestic market, is relatively insulated from the global economic crisis. We have shown, both in the 1990s and in 2008, a capacity to withstand the worst impact of international economic crisis. However, foreign investments and trade will continue to be an important element in our growth and modernization process. We will increasingly be a part of the currents of globalization. Indian companies are increasingly seeking to position themselves in the global market. A revival of the global economy would be important for India to realize its full growth potential.

India today is entering a qualitatively and quantitatively new phase in our diplomacy because of the perception that we’re emerging as a significant global power. There is a renewed interest in India and people also want to know what makes the people of India tick. They want to understand what has enabled a country as diverse as India to remain a democracy, as well as to emerge as an important economic partner.

And there is a shift in the image of India from a land of fakirs and snake charmers to mathematical geniuses, software gurus and top bankers and scientists in the world. And India’s story, we must not forget, is a civilizational story and what is exciting is the whole idea of India and its nationhood. It is not a country which is based on just a single religious identity or ethnicity or language or natural geography, not even on its economic growth or its military might. This is a country with every possible religion, ethnicity, 23 languages in the constitution, but a country whose story is the story of enduring differences of caste, creed, color, custom and still rallying around the idea of a civilizational entity, an India, emerging from an ancient civilization, united by shared history, sustained by pluralistic democracy and propelled by a high economic growth rate. And so that’s why we need to focus on the hardware of development, which is very, very important, because we have a long way to go in terms of building our roads and bridges, and railways, and schools, and hospitals. What we also need to turn to is the software of development, which is human capital and also to what’s an open, rich and diverse society, which is determined to liberate and fulfill the creative energies of its people.

What goal would you like to accomplish in your time in Poland?
During my term in Warsaw, I would like to see India-Poland relations grow in every sphere, be it trade and investment, defense cooperation, science and technology or people-to-people interaction. There is tremendous potential in expanding Indian investments in Poland. Cooperation in the tourism sector will also be high on my agenda. A priority area will be the widening and deepening of our cultural interface. I hope to work towards the creation of an Indian Cultural Center in Warsaw, with sub-centers in Cracow and Gdańsk. I believe that people-to-people contacts are an irreducible feature of any bilateral relationship and provide the strongest foundation for durable friendship and cooperation.

Monika Kapil Mohta joined the embassy in Warsaw as the ambassador of India to Poland and Lithuania on July 5, 2011. She is a career diplomat.

Since she joined the Indian foreign service in 1985 she served in Indian missions in Paris, Katmandu, Bangkok and London.
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