Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, who followed on last year's visit by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, was very well received during his January visit to India. This shows that India has a vital interest in close relations with European Union countries, including Czechia.
Petříček met the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and the Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankarema and several other key members of the government, including defense ministers, civil aviation and industry. “In recent months, we have succeeded in reviving the dialogue with India at the highest level. India is an interesting partner for business cooperation, so I am glad that I was accompanied by representatives of Czech companies who made useful contacts there, ”said Petříček, who was accompanied by dozens of entrepreneurs. Petříček invited the departmental colleague to Prague, where the Forum of Central Europe and India will be held in the middle of the year.
Petříček also appeared in New Delhi alongside many world statesmen at the Raisina Dialogue 2020 conference, one of the most prestigious and largest meetings of its kind in Asia. In his speech, he labeled the European Union and India (with its 1.4 billion inhabitants) the world's largest democracy, and as go-to partners in solving global problems. According to Petříček, the Czech Republic wants to strongly support this EU partnership - as the world’s strongest economic grouping - and India - as in the next few years in the world's most populous state. That is why Prague wants to bring relations with New Delhi to the same level or higher as those of the so far much preferred relations with Beijing until recently. “Finally, we realized that Asia is not just China,“ says Petříček. “We want to enter into a strategic partnership with India,” says the head of Czech diplomacy. Czechia in Asia has this special form of cooperation only with China and South Korea. ”India is a go-to political partner for us,” he added, recalling that the country is a democratic state with a pluralistic political system. ”Despite all the problems and question points about the last years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reign, it is still a functional democracy, where the elections are changing governments, last year, for example, at the level of federal states,“ added Czech Ambassador to India Milan Hovorka.
Škoda, JAWA and Home Credit
Petříček got convinced in India that the population-huge country, which in recent years has been among the fastest growing economies in the world, is a great opportunity for Czech economy, both in terms of exports and investments. The flagship of Czech investments in India is the Škoda car factory, which was commissioned to represent the entire VW concern. Škoda is preparing to launch a whole special model line designed specifically for Indian consumers. A lesser-known fact is that the Czech financial group Home Credit is also very successful in India. Minister Petříček, who visited the company’s headquarters in a new large office building in the most prestigious suburb of the twenty million conurbation of Delhi, praised the role of Home Credit in developing India's economy and developing the financial literacy of the Indian population.
During the busy reception of the Czech Embassy in Delhi, new models of the legendary Czech motorcycle manufacturer JAWA introduced their production mainly to India several years ago. “The resumption of JAWA motorcycle production is a huge event here in India, which attracts great interest from the most prestigious Indian media and makes the Czech Republic an amazing advertisement,” says Milan Hovorka based on his own experience.
India is Opening Up
An important part of Czech exports to India is also military equipment, especially radars and in the past also specially modified Tatra trucks; there are over eight thousand of them in the Indian army. However, after a corruption scandal in India, the Czech company found itself blacklisted, but according to Petříček, the Indian side is ready to negotiate a resumption of supplies after a change of the owner. ”The fact that India buys weapons from us shows a high level of relationships, because you don’t buy weapons from anyone,“ Petříček said after a meeting in New Delhi.
India itself also creates better conditions for the development of investment and trade cooperation (exchange between India and Czechia exceeds 30 billion crowns per year). India’s hitherto closed and relatively protectionist economy is opening up and making it more transparent for entrepreneurs thanks to reforms of the current government, for example by unifying taxes in all federal states. India could also resume negotiations on a free trade area with the EU this year.
Last but not least, India can be a reservoir of a relatively well-educated workforce for the Czech Republic, ranging from engineers to nurses, i.e. professions that Czech employers have been looking for in vain all around the world.
The author is an editor of the Deník