India, Greece agree to bolster ties as Modi meets Greek counterpart Mitsotakis | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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India, Greece agree to bolster ties as Modi meets Greek counterpart Mitsotakis

Feb 21, 2024 05:27 PM IST

Mitsotakis is the first Greek premier to travel to India in 16 years, and his trip is a follow-up to Modi’s visit to Athens last year, the first by an Indian premier in four decades

New Delhi: India and Greece on Wednesday agreed to bolster cooperation in areas ranging from defence manufacturing and trade to connectivity and to speedily finalise a migration and mobility pact as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his visiting Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (PTI Photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (PTI Photo)

Mitsotakis is the first Greek premier to travel to India in 16 years, and his trip is a follow-up to Modi’s visit to Athens last August, the first by an Indian premier in four decades. At the time, the two sides upgraded their ties to a strategic partnership and Wednesday’s discussions provided the two leaders an opportunity to assess the progress made since then.

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Pointing to opportunities created by India’s efforts to jointly develop and produce military hardware, Modi said the two sides agreed to link their defence industries. “We discussed concluding the migration and mobility partnership agreement between the two countries as soon as possible,” he said, speaking in Hindi after the talks.

Mitsotakis said the mobility pact will be a key step towards strengthening cooperation on legal migration, fighting human trafficking and offering young Indians an opportunity to work in Greece.

He described India as one of the “main pillars of stability and security” in the Indo-Pacific and pushed for the two sides to double their trade – currently worth about $2 billion – before the target year of 2030. The oldest and largest democracies share the mutual political will to establish partnerships and create new synergies, he said.

Modi said the two sides identified new opportunities in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, medical devices, technology, innovation and space to give new energy to their cooperation. They also discussed ways to boost cooperation in shipping and connectivity.

The growing cooperation in defence and security reflects the deep mutual trust between the two sides and the creation of a working group in this area will help increase coordination on common challenges such as cyber security, counter-terrorism and maritime security, Modi said. Given the common concerns in the fight against terror, the two leaders discussed how to strengthen cooperation in this area.

Without directly referring to the Ukraine war or the Israel-Hamas conflict, Modi said the two sides agreed that all “disputes and tensions should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy”. Mitsotakis emphasised India’s role in tackling global challenges such as the Ukraine war, the situation in West Asia, climate change and food and energy security.

“For all these challenges, one thing is certain. In order for governments to tackle them, international partnerships and collective action are paramount. India has a critical role to play in this endeavour and we view India as one of the main pillars of stability and security in the broader region of the Indo-Pacific,” he said

Modi welcomed Greece’s “positive role” in the Indo-Pacific and its decision to join the India-led Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI). There was also agreement on cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Greece can become an important partner in the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) launched during India’s G20 presidency last year, Modi said.

Mitsotakis acknowledged the prospects for strengthening connectivity through IMEC but said peace and stability in the Middle East is a “necessary condition” for the success of the initiative. “Greece, you just have to look at the map to realise, is India’s gateway to Europe, and through IMEC, we see our participation as a very important aspect of this strategic partnership,” he added.

The shared values of Greece and India “serve as a bridge that brings us closer”, and both sides share an “ethos or dharma” and a strong commitment to international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Mitsotakis said. In Modi, he said, he had “found a visionary, a principled leader and...a true friend”.

Mitsotakis, who is accompanied by a delegation of about 60 business leaders, said Greece is focused on promoting economic ties, especially in renewable energy, infrastructure, ports and shipping, and logistics. In this context, he said an Indian company was working with a leading Greek construction firm to build a new airport in Crete.

While pledging Greece’s support for India’s bid to be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council during 2028-29, Mitsotakis backed Modi’s call for reforming the UN to make it more representative of the “shifting patterns of development and global power”

Modi referred to the trade and cultural links between India and Greece dating back almost 2,500 years and said new initiatives such as the proposed migration and mobility agreement will give a modern form to these relations. The two sides also agreed to frame an action plan to celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between India and Greece in 2025.

Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra later told a media briefing that the two sides hadn’t discussed any specific ports with regard to Greece’s participation in IMEC. As the specifics of this project get fleshed out, the Indian side can look at ports, enabling provisions through government-to-government agreements and private-sector partnerships, he said.

He ruled out the possibility of the diversion of the route of IMEC due to the Israel-Hamas conflict. “Insofar as the alignment of the IMEC corridor is concerned, that remains unchanged as of now,” he said. There has been robust progress on segments of IMEC, such as railways, shipping and logistics standards, since the launch of the project last year, including recent agreements between firms in India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he added.

Mitsotakis was given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan before his restricted and delegation-level talks with Modi. External affairs minister S Jaishankar also met the Greek premier on Wednesday morning. Mitsotakis will travel to Mumbai for meetings with business leaders on Thursday.

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