India to build closer ties with Baltic nations with Naidu visit

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New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) In keeping with the government’s priority to boost ties with small nations, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu will visit the three Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from August 17-21 in the first such high-level trip from India.

The visit aims to advance India’s outreach to the important countries that border the Baltic Sea.

It is also expected to give a fillip to India’s keenness to push the International North-South Transport Corridor project that aims to link the Indian Ocean with the Baltic Sea and provide seamless connectivity.

India and Latvia have been historically linked by the ancient route called “The Amber Way” – an ancient trade route to transport amber from coastal areas of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Thanks to its ice-free ports and well-developed rail and road network, Latvia connects the Baltic region with the rest of Europe as well as Russia and Central Asia. This would help Indian exports reach these markets.

The new “Rail Baltica” project, a trans-European rail project to connect the Baltic states to the existing European rail network, would be an advantage for India.

The project, to cover territories of the co-operating EU member states, is touted to be the biggest joint project in the history of the Baltic countries.

Rail Baltica is one of the European Union’s priority projects and falls under the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).

The North-South Transport Corridor project would help Asian and European countries transport their cargo through the Corridor at double speed compared to the Suez canal.

It is thought to be the most suitable route for transit traffic between Asia and Europe as only a few countries exist along the route, which means fewer border crossings, and easier for the countries to reach agreements.

In Information Technology, both sides stand to benefit.

Estonia is a pioneer in e-governance and home to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, which India could benefit from. India can benefit from Estonian best practices for building its digital architecture and cyber security capacity.

Lithuania has developed expertise in laser technology, and exports its products to several countries.

Lasers and related technology have emerged as an important component of Lithuania’s trade with India, and are especially sought after by Indian universities and research centres, and could also be used for India’s industrial needs.

Recognizing the strategic importance of the Baltic nations, where China is fast increasing its footprint, then Indian Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar visited the three countries in 2017.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius extended Independence Day greetings to India: “I sincerely wish a joyous Independence Day to my colleague @DrSJaishankar & to the people of #India. The upcoming visit of India’s Vice-President to #Lithuania is yet another proof of deepening bilateral relations.”

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar responded: “Wonderful greetings from a country VP VenkaiahNaidu will soon be visiting. Many thanks.”

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics too tweeted his Independence Day greetings: “Congratulations to #India and @DrSJaishankar celebrating #IndiaIndependenceDay! #Latvia and India enjoy excellent bilateral relations and upcoming visit of Vice-President of India to Riga will further develop them.”

Jaishankar tweeted: “Many thanks for the greetings, @edgarsrinkevics. Look forward to further strengthening our friendship in the years ahead.”

Naidu’s visit will provide an opportunity to examine enhanced opportunities for cooperation, thus further strengthening existing friendly ties, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.

India and Baltic countries have historical connect and common linguistic roots. The cutting edge technology and innovation ecosystems of the Baltic countries complement India’s huge market and appetite for these technologies.

The Vice President’s visit will be the first ever high level visit to the three Baltic countries. It takes place in the context of increasing political engagement as well as intensified trade and commercial engagement.

Naidu will arrive in Vilnius, Lithuania, on August 17 where he will hold a bilateral meeting with President Gitanas Nauseda and meet Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament. He will also interact with the Indian community and address the India-Lithuania Business Forum.

In Latvia, Naidu will hold bilateral meeting with President Eglis Levits. He will also meet Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Inese Libina-Egnere, the Acting Speaker of the Latvian Parliament.

He will also attend a Business Forum co-organised by the Latvian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Indian Chamber ASSOCHAM. The Indian Vice President will lay a wreath at the Freedom Monument of Latvia and unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the National Library of Latvia. He will interact with the Indian community.

In Estonia, the Vice President will hold meetings with President Kersti Kaljulaid, Prime Minister Juri Ratas and the President of the Estonian Parliament, Henn Polluaas.

As a special privilege, Naidu will address the Estonian Head of Mission’s conference on India’s role in the Indo-Pacific and address the India-Estonia business forum led by CII from the Indian side. He will the Indian community in Estonia too.

The Vice President will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre, Minister of State for HRD, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, Ranee Narah, MP, Manas Ranjan Bhunia, MP, Ramesh Bidhuri, MP, and senior officers.

–IANS

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