New Delhi: India and countries in Eastern and Central Europe can partner each other in areas like artificial intelligence, IT, IT enabled services, urban infrastructure, clean technology and pharmaceuticals to achieve a $10 trillion economic partnership, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said Wednesday.
Addressing the fifth India-Europe 29 Business Forum organised by Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi, Goyal said the two sides could exploit the “huge opportunities" presented by the trade wars between different groups of countries and regional blocs. Some 400 delegates from 29 European countries stretching from Switzerland in the west to Turkey in the east and Norway in the north to Cyprus in the south are participating in the two day event that ends on Thursday. Prominent among those taking part are Mariyana Nikolova, Deputy Prime Minister for Economic and Demographic Policy of Bulgaria and Vojtecj Ferencz, State Secretary and First Deputy Minister of Economy, Slovak Republic.
India’s attempts to forge ties with Central and Eastern Europe come as China is making inroads into the same region with increased investments and joint ventures. In 2012, China launched what is called the “16+1" mechanism ie China+16 European countries to boost cooperation between the two. China’s stated aim is to enhance and expand investment, transportation, financial, scientific, educational and cultural cooperation between China and Central and East European (CEE) countries. China has prioritized three areas of economic cooperation: infrastructure development, high-technology and green technology. Most of the 16+1 countries are European Union (EU) members — Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, but the grouping also includes five non-EU states ie Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. According to an article in the Foreign Policy magazine, there are now major misgivings in Europe over the 16+1 format as in it seen in the European Union (EU) as an attempt by China to divide the union by offering investments to less-developed EU members in exchange for political influence.
According to Indian officials countries in Central and Eastern Europe have technologies that can help India to leapfrog into the $5 trillion economy bracket. And many of these technologies are often with small and medium sized companies as much as with big companies. And hence the Indian government has been stressing on contacts and linkages between India’s small and medium scale sector and their counterparts in these countries.
Bulgaria’s Nikolova urged Indian businesses to invest in her country – in areas like pharmaceuticals, chemicals, machinery and agri and food processing, among others. She also highlighted Bulgaria’s strengths in both IT hardware and software and expressed the view that Indian companies could be a partner.
Slovakia’s Ferencz said that though Indian companies like TCS and Jaguar Land Rover had invested in the country, and there was a need to step up Indian investment which he said was currently less than 1% of the total coming into his country.