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Indian president adds business contacts to old relations recipe

The president of the world's largest democracy, India, came to Slovakia on a symbolic mission underlining his country's yearning to extend ties, especially in business. President Shanker Daval Sharma's October 9-10 visit also underscored India's longstanding good relations with Slovakia even before it became independent in 1993, said Aruna Fontana, press secretary at the Indian Embassy in Bratislava which opened in 1995. But Sharma chose not to delve in Slovakia's democratic development.
"I don't think we wanted to say 'We support your moves toward democracy,'" Fontana said, speaking for the Indian mission. "Wouldn't that sound patronizing? It was a goodwill visit in continuation of our historically good relations."


Presidents of the world's largest democracy and one of the world's youngest meet at the new presidential palace.
TASR

The president of the world's largest democracy, India, came to Slovakia on a symbolic mission underlining his country's yearning to extend ties, especially in business.

President Shanker Daval Sharma's October 9-10 visit also underscored India's longstanding good relations with Slovakia even before it became independent in 1993, said Aruna Fontana, press secretary at the Indian Embassy in Bratislava which opened in 1995. But Sharma chose not to delve in Slovakia's democratic development.

"I don't think we wanted to say 'We support your moves toward democracy,'" Fontana said, speaking for the Indian mission. "Wouldn't that sound patronizing? It was a goodwill visit in continuation of our historically good relations."

Besides, Fontana added, Sharma is more or less a figurehead in the Indian government, like the queen in British politics. "Internal politics is not of interest to him," the embassy's spokeswoman said.

That showed in Sharma's meeting with Premier Vladimír Mečiar where the President was staying at the Hotel Forum. Mečiar said after the rendezvous that "we have the same or similar opinions, and our economies are open and our mutual trade is positively developing."

Sharma's visit with President Michal Kováč at the newly-opened Grassalkovich Palace had a similar ring. According to Kováč's spokesman Vladimír Štefko, "there are no major differences of opinion on foreign policy issues between Slovakia and India, and both countries see further development prospects in science and technology." Sharma also alluded to expanding cooperation in production and export of weapons to India, and the modernization of India's military apparatus.

Accompanying Sharma on the regional swing that took them to Poland before Bratislava and then on to Prague was also a score of leading Indian industrialists and businesspeople interested in exploring or furthering trade opportunities.

Ambika Sharma, deputy secretary of the Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), said that bringing the Indian companies along with the political delegation showed the importance to which FICCI attaches to expanding trade relations and furthering Indian access to other European markets.

In 1995, Slovakia's turnover with India amounted to $97 million, while the former Czechoslovak federation used to be one of India's major trading partners in eastern Europe..

Indian and Slovak business officials met at the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss trade possibilities between the two nations. On the Slovak side were managers from ten Slovak companies, including Istrochem, Kryštál Valašská Bela, Kerametal, and Salvia Slovakia, a pharmaceuticals firm in Nové Mesto nad Váhom.

According to N.M. Kejriwal, a leading industrialist in India, the discussion centered on two areas. "One is establishing joint ventures in Slovakia as well as in India, and the other is the possible transfer of technical know-how and technologies which Indian companies could buy from Slovakia," Kejriwal said.

"Specifically, we are also very keen on doing business with VSŽ Košice and importing their steel."

Joint ventures could be set up in construction, infrastructure, energy, hydro and thermal), mining, chemicals, textiles, leather, flowers, hotels and tourism. Kejriwal himself has already been running a joint venture for two years in clothing manufacturing called Tatrasvit Svit in which India provides raw materials, and it is manufactured in Slovakia and exported abroad.

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