19 Апреля 2021 г. 08:21

FTA with the EAEU will open up new opportunities in trade between India and Belarus - India expert

FTA with the EAEU will open up new opportunities in trade between India and Belarus - India expert
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Belarus wants to deepen cooperation with India, said President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting with Indian Ambassador Sangeeta Bahadur on April 8. As the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted earlier, in order to expand economic ties the republic might even open a new consulate general in Mumbai. The free trade agreement between India and the EAEU, negotiations on which intensified in 2020, would also contribute to rapprochement. Shoaib Khan, a researcher at the Center for Central Eurasian Studies at the University of Mumbai, told Eurasia.Expert what New Delhi thinks on developing ties with Belarus and what areas of cooperation are of interest to the Indian side.

– The official visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi to Belarus might trigger further development of cooperation between countries, said President Alexander Lukashenko. How interested is Modi in such a visit, given that he has never been to Belarus before?

– He is sure to accept the invitation, as the Indian Prime Minister is interested in visiting countries and increasing relations, particularly bilateral ties. His visit to Belarus will be not only to boost bilateral relations but will be a part of India's policy of maintaining the balancing act between the West and other regions.

In recent years Indian policy tilt has been towards West; time and again analysts and experts have focused on Indian shift more towards West and ignorance from other powers and regions, particularly Russia and the near neighbors. The Indian Prime Minister's visit to Belarus may also be a part of the policy of maintaining the balance, as relations with the countries of this region will provide India with political leverage on international arena besides providing opportunities in trade ties.

It has also been observed that though India is one of the stakeholders in the region, its trade ties with countries in the area compared to other big powers have been far from competitive level.

The strategic location of Belarus makes it a transitory artery for Eurasia and can help India in future linking with the International North-South Corridor (INSTC). The robust relationship that Belarus shares with the other INSTC members, including Russia, is a big advantage for India.

– Is New Delhi ready for a new stage of relations that the Belarusian leader talked about? How does India regard a deepened cooperation with Belarus?

– India and Belarus enjoy good understanding and commonality of views on various matters and cooperate with each other in multilateral forums on issues of mutual interest. Belarus has been supportive of India’s candidature for a permanent seat at the UNSC.

Belarus supported India’s candidature for the non-permanent seat of UNSC for the years 2011-2012. Belarus also supported India at the NSG Session in Seoul in June 2016. India supported Belarus for its membership in the NAM and other international and multilateral forums like IPU. India’s supportive stand on various Resolutions in Geneva and New York targeting Belarus for violation of human rights and restrictions on freedom of expression has been appreciated by Belarus. The country seeks to develop a “strategic relationship” with India.

India is also involved in seeking investment and resources through Belarusian route for developing smart cities. Other terms include improving the manufacturing sector and increasing skill development. The India-CIS Chamber of Commerce and Industry was formed to devise correct policies and monitor the trade relations between the CIS states, including Belarus, and India. India’s political ties with Belarus are an extension of traditionally warm and cordial bonds of friendship between India and the former Soviet Union. India was one of the first countries to recognize Belarus as an independent country in 1991.

– At the meeting with Indian Ambassador Belarusian leader showed great interest in close cooperation between the two countries. Why is the Belarusian side so eager for Modi's visit and a new format of cooperation with India?

– The Belarusian government has proposed a number of preferential regimes for foreign businesses. Firstly, there are six Free Economic Zones (FEZs) located in each region of Belarus. They are established for export-oriented production and located in specified territories. FEZs provide a special beneficial regime for residents, such as exemption from land tax, real estate tax and profit tax.

Belarus is ready to provide to Indian companies and businesses the most favorable conditions for doing business there.

In the past Belarus has also suggested to Indian and other companies from all over the world, that if they want, they will be able to launch production there and sell goods and services on the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union. Belarus always welcomes Indian companies. The two countries already have several success stories.

Belarus is looking forward to hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and will regard it as a landmark event for bilateral relations. This visit also comes at a time when Belarus faces political turmoil and need India and other friends more than before.

– Belarusian leader drew attention to the fact that over two decades of cooperation the trade turnover between Belarus and India has grown to $500 million, which is inferior to the capabilities of the two countries. What additional incentives are there for the development of bilateral cooperation?

– There are host of issues between the two countries which are already included in the past but they are yet to move forward in the new direction such as increasing trade ties between the two countries besides boosting cooperation in the field of mining, education and heavy machinery. To ensure enhancing of high-level contact between the two countries, they should optimize the structure of bilateral trade, increase trade turnover, create favorable conditions for enhanced direct investment and promote practical cooperation between financial institutions.

Last year the two sides entered a joint venture located on the premises of Belarus' Belmedpreparaty company in Skidel, expected to reach the designed capacity in 2021. There are plans to produce drugs to treat HIV, viral hepatitis, as well as other medicines that are in demand on the Belarusian and Russian markets. More than fifteen products might be localized here. However, the production of medicines implies certain safety procedures, including obtaining a certificate of good clinical practice and a registration procedure.

The two countries have an opportunity to cooperate in the ongoing Covid pandemic control efforts.

There is keen interest on both sides in further strengthening and diversifying economic and commercial interaction considering the potential that exists in two countries. There are good possibilities of investments and joint ventures, particularly in view of the Belarusian industrial and technological strength in manufacturing giant tires, agro-industrial machinery, mining equipment, and heavy-duty road construction machinery and also the disinvestment process in Belarus.

Pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, agriculture, fertilizers and food processing have been identified as areas of high potential. Both countries can also expand their links in a range of services such as IT, healthcare, financial services, transport and logistics.

– Ambassador Sangeeta Bahadur said: “We have achieved a lot during my three years here. We have significantly increased trade, Belarus has increased its presence in India”. In what sectors has the Indian side increased its presence in Belarus?

– A couple of years back Belarus invited Indian businesses to the East European country, saying they can avail tax exemptions extending from five to seven years and other such incentives.

There are still enormous untapped investment and trade potential between India and Belarus. India is committed to forge partnerships and joint ventures with the Belarusian industry.

According to one report India was commissioning large projects and would help Belarus in terms of its work and experience besides assisting in training of manpower and providing best technology for such projects. There is investment cooperation, within the framework of which three projects in pharmaceutical industry with the participation of India are being implemented in Belarus. This is the production of drugs for the treatment of cancer, tuberculosis, anticancer drugs. Possibilities of supplies of Belarusian special machinery and equipment are being considered.

There is interest in expanding cooperation in agriculture, mechanical engineering, energy and education. New trade opportunities provide for the creation of a free trade zone between India and the Eurasian Economic Union.

It is from the Indian point of view that it is time to elevate India-Belarus relations to a higher trajectory by building on the enormous potential in trade and investment, defense cooperation, science and technology as well as educational and academic linkages.

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