A Historic Moment! President Pranab takes ‘India Story’ to Sweden and Belarus


“My visit to Sweden and Belarus were first visits ever by an Indian president to either country,” said President Mukherjee while he briefed the media onboard the aircraft on his way back to Delhi

President Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian head of state to visit Sweden and Belarus. The Indian president visited Sweden from May 31-June 2 and Belarus from June 2-4. Apart from Minister of State (Chemicals and Fertilisers) Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, Leader of Opposition in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashwani Kumar (MP Lower House) and several senior government officials, a 120-strong business delegation also accompanied him on his five-day visit to Scandinavian and Eastern European nations.

“My visit to Sweden and Belarus were first visits ever by an Indian president to either country,” said President Mukherjee while he briefed the media onboard the aircraft on his way back to Delhi. “They reflect the renewed emphasis that India places on further enhancing our partnership with these two countries.”

Mukherjee also highlighted that both countries have been supportive of India’s claim for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

In the Swedish leg of the visit, President Mukherjee held talks with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on wide ranging bilateral and multilateral issues. “The focus of my visit to Sweden was to strengthen bilateral economic ties and to provide impetus to our cooperation in specific areas of priority to us in which Sweden has established strengths,” Mukherjee stated. Sweden is one of the top three innovative nations in the world as well as a leader in smart urbanisation, transport and waste management, green technologies, renewable energy, health, education and research.

“Six intergovernmental agreements were concluded in Sweden, covering cooperation in the fields of urban development, medium and small scale enterprises, polar research, civil nuclear research and medicine,” the president announced. “Seventeen MoUs were further signed between educational institutions, think tanks and chambers of commerce of the two countries.”

The president also announced the signing of diplomatic visa waiver and the decision to grant e-tourist visas to Swedish nationals, in line with the Indian government’s initiative to enhance people-to-people contact. The Swedish King and the prime minister have been invited to India by President Mukherjee.

In Minsk, the president of India was received by his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko. “We held wide-ranging, substantive and forward-looking discussions on bilateral issues as well as regional developments,” President Mukherjee said. “President Lukashenko and I agreed that the time had come to elevate India-Belarus relations to a higher trajectory, building on the enormous potential in trade and investment, defence cooperation, science and technology as well as educational and academic linkages.” President Mukherjee also met Prime Minister Andrei V Kobyakov, the chairman of the Council and chairman of the house of representatives of the national assembly.

President Mukherjee suggested to President Lukashenko that India and Belarus engage in a four-fold framework for enhanced cooperation comprising regular political and institutional dialogue, rapid increase in commercial and economic interaction, a paradigm shift in defence cooperation towards joint research, design and manufacturing as well as wide-ranging expansion of S&T, educational, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. “President Lukashenko responded positively to my proposals and underlined that Belarus considers India a partner of choice as well as reliable and loyal friend,” President Mukherjee said.

Five agreements and MoUs were signed by the two sides, covering cooperation in textiles, standardisation, capital markets and broadcasting. A focused and substantive roadmap for India-Belarus cooperation was also agreed upon, which identifies specific areas for closer interaction in the days ahead. Seven MoUs were signed between Indian and Belarusian Universities and Institutes.

“I conveyed the decision of Government of India to grant Market Economy Status to Belarus, which had been a long-standing request of the Belarus side,” the Indian president said. This decision would open up new avenues for bilateral trade and facilitate the integration of Belarus in international trade structures. President Mukherjee also announced extending a new line of credit of $100 million to Belarus for implementation of mutually agreed joint projects to deepen economic ties between the two countries.

The Indian president unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the prestigious Belarus State University campus where he was also conferred with Professor Honoris Causa.

There is an increasing awareness of the growing business opportunities, building on the new focus on manufacturing in India under the ‘Make in India’ initiative as well as the wider market offered by the Eurasian Economic Union for investors in Belarus. Agricultural machinery, mining equipment, heavy construction equipment and defence were identified as potential areas for manufacturing ventures in India.

“Belarus is keen to see greater Indian Investments in manufacture of pharmaceuticals,” President Mukherjee said. “Several commercial agreements have also been concluded. We proposed increasing our trade turnover to $1 billion in the next five years, which should be achievable.”

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