Ireland looks to refresh age-old cultural, political ties with India | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Ireland looks to refresh age-old cultural, political ties with India

Oct 25, 2023 11:29 AM IST

Ireland aims to strengthen its ties with India through increased trade, investment, and political cooperation, as part of its updated Asia-Pacific strategy. The country also plans to cooperate with China on global challenges such as climate change, while addressing differences and challenges posed by China's border disputes in the region. Ireland sees the historic cultural and political relations between India and Ireland as a foundation for further cooperation.

Dublin: As Ireland prepares to ramp up its diplomatic footprint in Asia and the Pacific, the leadership in Dublin is looking to build on age-old cultural and political ties with India by forging closer cooperation in trade, investment and the digital transition.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Micheal Martin. (HT photo)
Ireland’s deputy prime minister Micheal Martin. (HT photo)

At the same time, Ireland is “clear-eyed” about its relationship with China, with plans to cooperate on global challenges such as climate change while not hesitating to raise issues on which there are differences, as well as challenges posed by Beijing’s border disputes across the region.

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India figures prominently in an updated Asia-Pacific strategy unveiled by deputy prime minister Micheál Martin at the Global Ireland Summit, a conclave of ambassadors and top foreign policy officials, on Tuesday. The strategy, originally finalised in 2020, was refreshed in view of geopolitical challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war.

According to the document, Ireland will deepen its “strategic relationship with India across all strands of cooperation, including strengthened political contacts, a deeper trade and investment relationship”, and back the conclusion of a “comprehensive, ambitious” European Union (EU)-India free trade agreement.

At an interaction with a group of journalists from Asia and the Pacific, Martin referred to historic cultural and political relations between India and Ireland, including groundwork done by Irish missionaries for the relationship and the strong ties between former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former president Éamon de Valera.

These ties have been strengthened in recent years by the entry into Ireland of Indian firms such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which acquired 1,500 staff and assets of Pramerica Systems Ireland, a subsidiary of Prudential Financial Inc, in 2020.

The focus now, Martin said, will be on the economic and cultural fronts as well as the geopolitical situation, including the war in Ukraine, and enhancing the multilateral order. “We understand the historic links between India and Russia, but nonetheless, as a small country, we depend on the multilateral rules-based order being adhered to. For us, the breach by Russia is a fundamental violation of the [UN] Charter,” he said.

Responding to a question from HT on challenges posed by China’s border disputes with countries such as India, the Philippines and Vietnam, Martin, who is also minister for foreign affairs and defence, emphasised the need for a framework to resolve such issues.

“In terms of border disputes, they can be very problematic. Very often, geography and history combined can give rise to these challenges. I think the only advice we’d give is that it’s important to get these into a framework [and] a process to resolve [them], and that one doesn’t allow them to get out of hand and distort wider sets of relationships between countries,” he said.

Martin suggested that regional groupings in Asia could be “key to regional stability and strength because countries working individually are probably less secure, have less capacity [and] less strength”.

He hoped India and Canada, “two major countries, two friends of Ireland”, will ultimately develop the capacity to resolve the diplomatic row triggered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation about a potential link between Indian government agents and the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

“I think it’s in both their interest to do so. It is a challenging issue, but I don’t have any doubt that, over time, this issue will evolve and will moderate, and I would like to think that both countries have the capacity to engage and work this out,” he said.

Martin was guarded in responding to a question on Ireland’s position on the human rights situation in Manipur and Kashmir, saying his country looks at issues “through a human rights lens” and will be “very concerned about breaches of human rights”. He added, “We think it’s a fundamental obligation of all states to uphold freedom of expression, opinion, religion, fundamental rights and identity and so forth.”

Ireland’s refreshed Asia-Pacific strategy outlines plans to back the EU’s efforts to work with India, China and others to tackle climate change, including cutting emissions, and for exploring a programme for training senior Indian officials following the success of a similar scheme with China.

India-Ireland trade in goods has grown steadily and was worth $4.2 billion during 2022-23, with India’s exports at only $581.5 million. Indian top imports were electrical machinery, sound and television image recorders, plastic articles, and precision medical or surgical instruments.

Ireland also intends to build on its fintech exports to the region and “harness the opportunity presented by China, India and other Asian financial markets”. With IDA Ireland, the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) agency, looking to diversify investments from non-US markets, officials said top Indian firms are seen as key potential investors.

Jaguar Land Rover, a subsidiary of Tata Motors, recently set up a software development centre in Ireland and other Indian majors with a presence in the country include Wockhardt, Reliance Genemedix, Crompton Greaves, Shapoorji Pallonji, Wipro, Infosys and HCL.

At the same time, Enterprise Ireland, which helps forge partnerships between Irish firms and foreign companies, especially in innovation and research, plans to leverage its expanded presence in India, China and Southeast Asian markets.

Ireland is also home to more than 61,000 people of Indian-origin, including some 30,000 NRIs. The bulk of the community works in healthcare, IT, engineering and senior management. The number of Indian students too has risen to about 6,000, especially after the introduction of a visa scheme that allows them to remain in Ireland for up to two years to work.

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