Soon after the independence of Ukraine from the erstwhile Union of Soviet
Socialist Republic (USSR), India established diplomatic relationship with Kyivby
opening its embassy in the capital. Both countries enjoy cordial relations in
political, economic and defence fields. In a short span of time, Ukraine has
emerged as India’s important trading and defence partner. To deepen the existing
areas of engagement and to explore new ones, both countries have inked several
agreements and MoUs. Besides, both countries signed a landmark Treaty on
Friendship and Cooperation in 1992, which has been significant, both politically
and economically, for both sides. Indeed, there are no irritants in their
relationship and the recent visit of Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine, to
India has been helpful in expanding the horizon of cooperation in areas of
economy, defence, science and technology, among others.
Twenty years of bilateral ties
Although New Delhi and Kyiv established diplomatic ties in January 1992, their
engagements were in place well before Ukrainian independence. India had cultural
and educational ties with this East European country. Indian movies, dance forms
and culture have been popular in Ukraine since long. Besides the popularity of
India’s soft power, many Indian students received education in medical and
engineering fields, which were relatively less expensive, but more advanced.
After Ukraine’s independence, the frequency of visits by top government
authorities and ministers, including heads of state, has increased. Their
bilateral relationship is multi-faceted and now spans a range of areas including
defence, nuclear, space, trade and commerce. Today, the interests of the two
countries converge in almost all areas. Their ties have grown from the bilateral
level to cooperation and understanding on critical international issues at the
international fora.The two share the view on early adoption of a UN
Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Ukraine also favours the
restructuring of prevailing international regimes, including the reform of the
UN Security Council. Kyiv supports India’s permanent membership at the expanded
UNSC and New Delhi extends its support for non-permanent membership for Kyiv at
the Council.This shows the increasing reciprocity in relationship between the
two nations in shaping the global order.
The economic sphere has witnessed growing cooperation with both countries
realising and utilising the vast potential in each other for mutual benefits.
Current annual bilateral trade stands in excess of $2.8 billion, which has seen
an impressive increase of more than 25 percent in two years in a row. Following
Russia, Ukraine is India’s second largest trading partner among the Commonwealth
of Independence States (CIS). The mechanism of Ukraine India Inter-Governmental
Commission that holds Joint Business Council Meetings has been instrumental in
furthering bilateral trade and commercial engagements. Besides exporting
chemicals and machines, Ukraine has emerged as single biggest source of
sunflower oil for India. India imports more than a quarter of Ukraine’s total
sunflower oil output, which is the second largest in the world.However, trade is
tilted heavily in Ukraine’s favour.To make it sustainable in the long-term, both
countries need to balance their trade. India needs to diversify its export
basket and explore new areas of economic engagement. Ukraine has developed its
stake in the Indian economy and India needs to reciprocate. India exports
pharmaceuticals, minerals, tobacco products, and it needs to identify other
export items.India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development
Authority (APEDA) can explore the opportunity to export flowers to Ukraine. On
its part, Ukraine needs to ease the existing visa regime to allow greater access
to Indian entrepreneurs in its markets. Kyiv should adopt a long-term multiple
entry visa policy of Indian businessmen.
Defence cooperation between India and Ukraine is also emerging as one of the
mainstays of the relationship. A large number of defence facilities in Ukraine
were established during the Soviet period and Kyiv has modernised these
installations, especially the aviation industry infrastructure. Ukraine is among
top ten defence manufacturers in the world and reportedly maintains the second
largest force in Europe after Russia.Ukraine has substantial potential in the
transport aircraft sector and ship building.India and Ukraine maintain a robust
defence relationship, which is growing from buyer-seller level to joint
collaboration. Keeping in view the wide scale repair and modernisation
facilities available in Ukraine, India awarded a contract to Kyiv to modernise
its more than 100 military transport aircrafts.Kyiv has also shown interestto
undertake joint projects with India at bilateral and multilateral levels in the
areas of manufacturing and developing advanced defence technologies.
Ukraine’s relationship with India’s neighbours
Ukraine maintains a close relationship with India’s neighbours on the east and
west, China and Pakistan. Ukraine considers China as its strategic as well as
main partner in the Asia-Pacific region, while China sees Ukraine as its gateway
to Europe. Ukraine-China bilateral trade in 2011 reached $10.4 billion, which
the two countries plan to take to 20 billion by 2015. Defence cooperation
between the two countries is also strong. China’s recently launched first
aircraft carrier Liaoning is a ship it had purchased from Ukraine way back in
1998. Beijing has emerged as one of the biggest creditors to Ukraine as well as
a leading market for Ukrainian arms.
Pakistan is also among the major buyers of Ukrainian arms and ammunition.
Islamabad and Kyiv enjoy close defence relations. Ukraine is assisting Pakistan
in the production of its Al Khalid Main Battle Tank. Pakistan has also invited
Ukraine to participate in its Naval Exercise Aman-13. In response,Ukraine has
shown interest in inviting Pakistan Navy to Sea Breeze 2013 Naval Exercise.
Besides, defence engagement, the bilateral economic relation is also growing. In
2011, the Ukraine-Pakistan bilateral trade was more than $105 million, and it is
in Ukraine’s favour. Pakistan is looking for Ukrainian investments, especially
in the coal-based powered projects.
Adding strength and substance
Marking the two decades of India-Ukraine bilateral diplomatic ties, President of
Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych visited India between December 9-12, 2012. During this
visit, five agreements/MoUs, including cooperation in the field of defence,
science and technology, legal assistance, nuclear safety and radiation
protection were signed.
India and Ukraine can cooperate in the field of nuclear energy and related
technology. India is a fast growing economy; however, its growth is constrained
by energy shortages. To meet the requirements, Indiais emphasising on nuclear
energy. Ukraine has the relevant technology suitable to India’s requirements.
However, nuclear safety is an important dimension of atomic energy. In this
regard,Ukraine can share with India the improvements in its safety mechanism
evolved in the post-Chernobyl nuclear disaster period. Many Indian and Ukrainian
nuclear reactors have similar designs; Indian nuclear experts can work with
Ukrainian engineers to make these installations safer.
During the visit, the President also visited the south Indian city of Bengaluru,
an IT and science & technology hub. Ukraine has shown keen interest in
developing its own IT industry and wants India to become a partner in the
process. He addressed the India-Ukraine Business Forum in the city and hailed
Bengaluru as an example of successful development that can be emulated
India and Ukraine, two democratic countries, have shown greater and deeper
understanding of each otherduring the two decades of bilateral engagement.
However, changing international and regional dynamics demand greater cooperation
between the two. Ukraine’s relationship with India’s neighbours would help Kyiv
understand New Delhi’s perspectives in South Asia.
The timely visit of the Ukrainian president is a successful attempt to bring the
two countries closer. Besides the dividends of the bilateral relationship,
Ukraine’s strategic location can also help India enter East European markets by
making the country its platform. With its geographical location, demographic
strength and advanced industrial base, Ukraine can become India’s trade corridor
to Europe. Similarly, Ukraine can tap the vast billion plus South Asian markets
through Indian collaboration.
To make the relationship robust and enduring, both the counties need to involve
their private sectors. This would not only deepen the existing relation, but
would also open new vistas of engagements. Being democracies, the two countries
also need to increase people-to-people cooperation.