Greece and India share an invaluable bond since Greece is the birthplace of democracy, and India is currently the biggest democracy in the world, highlighted Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs George Gerapetritis in his interview to Sidhant Sibal, diplomatic correspondent of the international news network Wion, it was reported on Thursday.
Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is expected to arrive in Athens on Friday, the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Greece in 40 years.
Here follows the interview in its entirety, as titled and released by the Greek foreign affairs ministry:
“Greece can become India’s gateway to Europe”
JOURNALIST: The Mediterranean holds immense strategic importance. Could you elaborate on any joint initiatives or plans between Greece and India to enhance connectivity and trade in the Mediterranean via the Arab world?
G. GERAPETRITIS: The Mediterranean is a region of enormous geopolitical importance since it constitutes a crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Greece, a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) can lead in promoting synergies in South Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Greece is a maritime nation, and India is the 5th largest economy in the world. Greece and India can embark on a mutually beneficial strategic partnership by strengthening bilateral relations and investing in connectivity. To this end, maritime infrastructure in Greece, such as the Piraeus port, one of the largest ports in Europe regarding container handling, can become India’s gateway to Europe.
JOURNALIST: Can you provide an overview of diplomatic relations between Greece and India and any recent developments in this partnership?
G. GERAPETRITIS: Our two countries share an invaluable bond since Greece is the birthplace of democracy, and India is currently the biggest democracy in the world. In this sense, we share common values and principles, an active interest in promoting democracy and dialogue, respect for international law, and a rules-based international order. This is reflected in how the two countries have forged a strong relationship, which we aspire to turn into a strategic partnership. Our political relations are excellent, and we hope to further strengthen and expand our economic ties. The superb climate in our political relations is confirmed by, among others, the frequent exchange of high-level visits. During the tenure of the previous Greek government, and despite the pandemic, there have been two visits between our countries’ Foreign Ministers as well as several one-on-one meetings between them at various international fora. Apart from meetings at the highest state level, consultations at a political or economic level are also ongoing. Just recently, the 13th round of Political Consultations between Greece and India was held on June 14 at the level of the Secretaries General of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. The two sides further strengthened bilateral cooperation in investment, defense cooperation, culture, and maritime transport security. Earlier, the 8th Session of the Greece-India Joint Economic Committee convened in Athens in 2022 and led to the signing of a Protocol on trade, energy, tourism, and maritime cooperation. Another area of cooperation is defense. In addition to the participation of detachments of the armed forces in each other’s military drills, the Head of the Hellenic Air Force visited India in June, and the College of Defense Management of the Indian Armed Forces visited Greece recently as well.
JOURNALIST: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Greece. This is after decades that an Indian PM will be visiting Greece, how do you see the visit straightening the ties between the two countries?
G. GERAPETRITIS: This is a historic visit, given that it is the first by an Indian Prime Minister to Greece in 40 years. We sincerely hope that Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Greece will infuse new energy into the dynamic of our relations. Prime Minister Mitsotakis is very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi.
JOURNALIST: Economic cooperation often drives international partnerships. Are there any significant trade or investment opportunities that Greece and India are exploring to further boost their economic ties?
G. GERAPETRITIS: The excellent level of bilateral relations was reaffirmed at the 8th Session of the Greece-India Joint Economic Committee. The progress in trade cooperation is reflected in relevant data, as our bilateral trade volume increased by 58% in 2022, reaching the highest level for the last five years ( € 1.32 billion). Back in 2019, India’s participation as the country of honor in the 84th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair – the largest annual commercial expo in the Balkans and Southeastern Europe – was a milestone in the enhancement of our trade and investment cooperation. To this end, Greece’s competitive advantage in maritime infrastructure and logistics provides an opportunity for Greece to become the gateway to the European market for Indian goods. Furthermore, we attach great importance to strategic Indian investments in renewable energy, ports and airports infrastructure, shipping, Information Technology, health, agriculture, tourism, film, and audiovisual production. We aim to create mutually beneficial synergies.
JOURNALIST: As the world transitions to cleaner energy sources, how do Greece and India collaborate in areas such as renewable energy, technology transfer, and sustainable development?
G. GERAPETRITIS: I want to stress that planet protection and green growth promotion are our government’s top priorities. In this context, investments in green energy play a pivotal role. We aspire to intensify our cooperation with India in energy transition issues to bring about sustainable modernization and development of our economies. Greece enjoys more than 250 days of sunshine per year and has a strong wind capacity. Therefore, our country offers significant untapped electricity generation potential. In this respect, Greece is proud to be amongst the countries that have signed and ratified the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Agreement, an initiative by India and France aimed at the deployment of solar energy technologies in order to combat climate change.
JOURNALIST: Maritime security is a growing concern globally. How do Greece and India cooperate in ensuring the safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the Mediterranean?
G. GERAPETRITIS: Freedom of navigation and regional maritime stability are of paramount importance for Greece. We have a common understanding on this issue with India, which also plays a crucial role in the Indo-Pacific region. Greece and India are both committed to International Law and the International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as fundamental pillars of a rules-based international maritime environment. We are fully aware of the strategic importance of a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific, and we, therefore, support this objective. We also welcome the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), which fully endorses the freedom of navigation in a safe, stable, and sustainable maritime domain. Moreover, the participation of Greece in the EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA, with the mandate to deter, prevent and repress piracy and armed robbery at sea, combat drug trafficking, and contribute to the arms embargo on Somalia, has significantly upgraded the role of our country as a security provider in the broader sea region fraught with maritime security challenges.
JOURNALIST: India has recently taken over the presidency of the G20. How do you see this leadership role impacting global economic cooperation, and are there any avenues for Greece and India to collaborate within this framework?
G. GERAPETRITIS: India assumed the G20 Presidency in a period of international turmoil and global economic slowdown. Greece welcomes India’s aspiration to address significant global challenges in an inclusive way through beneficial collaborative solutions.
JOURNALIST: How do you see Greece, Cyprus, and India working together in the region, given that India has close ties with both countries?
G. GERAPETRITIS: Greece and Cyprus are two EU Member-States with a significant footprint on world trade and the Eastern Mediterranean; in this capacity, they can be a bridge between the European Union and India. Let me underline that Greece appreciates India’s long-standing consistent position and support for reaching a just and viable solution of the Cyprus issue.