H.E. Mr Nicos Anastasiades, Honourable President of the Republic of Cyprus, speaks to Diplomatist Editor Martin Healey about the relationship between Cyprus and India. Excerpts...
Your Excellency, it is a great honour to be invited to speak with you about the close ties between Cyprus and India. Would you please enlighten us about the significance of this special relationship?
India is an old and valued friend of Cyprus. Our common struggle against colonialism and the shared vision of independence form the anchor of a deep, longstanding and strong friendship, founded on a common adherence to democratic values, norms and principles. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian nation, who led it through the realisation of self-determination, and who has since become a universal symbol of peace and humanity, had a special bond with Cyprus.
As a result, our two countries enjoy excellent relations, based on deeply-rooted historical, political, economic and cultural ties, including amicable interactions between our two peoples. Our strong relations extend further, through our close cooperation within international organisations and fora, in accordance with our shared principled stance with respect to international law, the values and principles of the United Nations, including respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our countries. Cyprus and India both cherish peace, democracy, fundamental freedoms, as well as respect for the rule of law and cultural diversity.
'Fostering Greater Economic Cooperation’ is the theme of the India-Cyprus Business Session and the main reason for your India visit. What are the key areas in which you expect to see more bilateral trade?
We see a lot of scope in our bilateral trade through a partnership which has significant potential to grow even further, particularly in key fields, such as banking and finance, shipping, air services, education, science, innovation, technology, renewable energy and tourism.
Cyprus and India have established a comprehensive framework of institutional collaboration, which we constantly aim at expanding in order to fulfil the huge potential that exists for increased cooperation. In this regard, I am pleased that during my visit to New Delhi, a number of bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding will be signed in the fields of merchant shipping, air services, agricultural cooperation, education and culture; these are key areas with incredible potential for enhanced cooperation. In fact, during my visit a decision was taken to establish a Ministerial Working Group precisely to explore cooperation in sectoral areas.
The overall objective is to foster greater economic cooperation and build on the comparative advantages that both Cyprus and India offer. We believe that there are a lot of unique investment opportunities in Cyprus, a EU Member State with a strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, North Africa and Asia, for Indian investors and vice versa. This will enable us to achieve a strategic re-orientation of our economic partnership and explore new areas of cooperation.
Cyprus and India have close political relations, open FDI policies and regularly meet in a joint committee to boost economic cooperation – ideal conditions, it seems. Still, in which areas do you see room for improvement?
Since I have already referred to the area of shipping, allow me to reiterate that Cyprus’s shipping industry has been most successful worldwide. Cyprus enjoys the privilege of being one of the most influential global hubs for ship owning and ship management services, and home to some of the world’s most prominent names in shipping. We offer competitive ship registration costs and a favourable tax regime for ship management and other international business enterprises.
The education sector also has the capacity of becoming another significant area of collaboration between Cyprus and India. The three state universities, ranked high in terms of quality of teaching and research, along with the private universities offer a wide range of courses and degree programmes, attracting foreign students from India and all over the world. I believe there is a significant role Cyprus can play in attracting outstanding Indian students and researchers into our universities. In addition, there are great prospects for cooperation in science and technology, where India possesses much-needed and much-welcomed experience and expertise, and could greatly benefit Cyprus. Attracting talent is crucial in boosting our entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystem.
Tourism is another area where Cyprus and India can engage further. Cyprus has become a very well established tourist destination over the last few decades, providing high quality services. During my visit to India, our countries signed a Protocol Amending the Air Services Agreement, providing the opportunity for flights from Cyprus to India and vice versa. This is a very positive development because it will create the conditions for more people-to-people contacts and exchanges.
The new Technology Park in Cyprus offers a great space for the promotion of applied research, innovation and smart specialisation. Other areas of cooperation include renewable energy, where Cyprus can share its expertise in solar energy systems, assisting India in achieving its goals to depend more on renewable energy in the following years.
I must also refer to the opportunities Cyprus offers to the film industry. Following the recent introduction of tax incentives for investment in innovation and start-up companies, we will soon also be introducing an incentives scheme specific to the film industry. The beauty, climate and cultural wealth of our country, in combination with the incentives we plan to introduce, will make Cyprus an ideal filming location. We welcome production companies from India to consider Cyprus and we commit to ensure that their experience, should they choose our island as a filming location, will be as smooth as possible.
Cyprus and India also see eye to eye on many global issues and support each other in international organisations. Can this relationship help revitalise the Free Trade Agreement negotiations between the EU and India?
Besides the obvious trade and economic benefits that would accrue, a Free Trade Agreement will provide the space for EU Member States to maximise their bilateral engagement with India, in all possible sectors of economic activity. The multipliers of an FTA, in the context of an ambitious EU – India Strategic Partnership in the 21st century, are enormous.
The EU and its Member States possess tremendous expertise and know-how, in the very areas where India wishes to take huge modernisation leaps, and where Prime Minister Modi has set an ambitious agenda: Make in India, Clean India, Digital India, Smart Cities, and other significant initiatives, like the International Solar Alliance. All these initiatives are significantly reinforced when India and EU Member States work closely together.
The Republic of Cyprus has strongly supported the signing of the FTA, and will seize the opportunity to engage actively with India in such sectors as renewable energy, most notably in solar energy and natural gas, in shipping and financial services, new applications of thermal energy in medical sciences and pharmaceuticals, in advanced university research and people-to-people contacts.
Your Excellency, thank you for your time. We hope to welcome you back to India in the near future!