“Undoubtedly, Ukraine is a beautiful country. Its people and the geography make it more appealing. Your trust in democracy and the determination I see in the people to practice it, is always a motivation”. – say Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of India in Ukraine, H.E. Mr. Partha Satpathy.
Mister Ambassador, please tell us about the beginning of cooperation between our states that had been started after 1991, since Ukraine gained independence and what were the first steps at this collaboration?
Indians and Ukrainians have shared a cultural affinity since several centuries. The similarities between Ukrainian and Sanskrit languages is a prime example to show the historical closeness of our two peoples. The warmth and closeness in our ties has only strengthened since Ukraine’s independence in 1991 – India was one of the earliest countries that recognized the Republic of Ukraine as a sovereign independent country, and established diplomatic relations as early as January 1992. On the other hand, Ukraine opened its first Mission in Asia (and then third largest Ukrainian Embassy in the world) in New Delhi in February 1993. The First President of Ukraine, Mr. L.M. Kravchuk visited India in March, 1992, which was followed by a visit from President of India, Shri S.D. Sharma in July, 1993.
What are the main areas of bilateral cooperation between Kiev and Delhi at this stage? Is it possible to say that both parties use the potential of economic, political and humanitarian cooperation in full? Why?
I believe in the indestructibility of energy. The potential energy in our relations needs to be transferred into kinetic energy through new and exciting projects, and I am happy to tell you that these are actively being considered, such as in the Renewable Energy sector, Information Technology sphere, e-governance projects by the Ukrainian government, etc.
Indo-Ukrainian cooperation is multi-sectorial and dynamic, and we have strong and mutually
beneficial engagements in all aspects – Political, Commercial, Health, Defense, Education, Energy, Agriculture, Space, Cultural, etc. Bilateral trade between the two countries was over USD 2.8 billion in 2018, with $2.2 billion of exports from Ukraine to India. India is Ukraine’s largest export destination in the Asia and Pacific and the fifth largest overall Export destination.
We have recently had high level interactions between the leaderships of the two countries.
Indian culture- be no matter what is it yoga, dance forms, Bollywood, Indian cuisine, etc. are hugely popular in Ukraine.
Since the Soviet times, Ukraine boasted of credible higher educational institutions of learning in sciences, medicines, engineering etc. This expertise of Ukraine and the familiarity for Indians has motivated Indian students to come to Ukraine for higher studies and this trend continues till today. A large number of students study in Ukraine, particularly in medicine. This is an exciting sphere of cooperation but it needs to be continued and attention should be focused by the Ukrainian authorities towards upgradation of their own educational institutions.
The question may be changed a little to: Ukraine and India have much to offer each other in economic, in scientific and in technical fields. Are there any such specific projects involving both countries?
India and Ukraine share many convergences in scientific and technical spheres. Both countries are diversifying their energy sources, with a particular emphasis on increasing the share of renewable energy- Hydel, Solar, Wind, etc. Both have significant share of nuclear energy in their power mix, and hence, we have strong cooperation in Energy sector with significant prospects for the future as well. In the technical sphere, we have several joint R&D projects in the areas of Biotechnology and Biomedical, Information and Communication Technologies, Nanotechnologies and New Materials, Energy and Energy Resources, High Energy Physics and Astrophysics, etc. Both sides have identified future plan of cooperation in the field of Metals & Material Sciences, Computational Science, earth and Environmental Sciences, Aerospace engineering, Biological sciences, etc.
Rightly said, the Indian space program is growing in its ambitions, and is a remarkable example of India’s Scientific and Research potential. As you know, our competency lies not only in our technical expertise but the ability to do it in a highly cost effective manner. We have the record of launching the most satellites, simultaneously on a single rocket. This month itself, we launched many satellites, coordinated through ANTRIX, which provides launch services for customer satellites from different countries.
With Mangalyaan-the Mars Orbiter Mission, India became the first country to reach outer Mars orbit in its first attempt. We plan to launch manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’ by December, 2021 and to carry out a mission to Sun ‘Aditya L1 Mission’ by 2020. Ukraine and India have a significant collaboration in the field of space, with an agreement on Cooperation in the Exploration and use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes. On the foundation laid by the agreement, we have an ongoing program of cooperation, as well as regular contacts between the national space organizations.
Speaking of political co-operation one cannot but mention certain stagnation in our bilateral relations. What is its cause? Do you generally agree that such stagnation occurs?
You should not confuse a spring thaw with a winter freeze. There are seasons of the year and bilateral relations also go through these seasons of change, each has positives and negatives issues. I don’t perceive a stagnation in our bilateral cooperation. There have been regular high level visits and interactions between our countries, and as elaborated earlier, we have a growing multidimensional cooperation. Moreover, India, being the largest democracy in the World, and Ukraine, one of the largest democracies in Europe, we understand each other well, and have significant political convergences. We have recently held elections in the both countries, and the people have given an overwhelming mandate to Prime Minister Modi in India and President Zelensky in Ukraine. The two leaders exchanged views on bilateral cooperation. This was reinforced when the Foreign Ministers of our two countries met on the sidelines of UNGA. This, undoubtedly, reflects active participation and a shared outlook between the leadership to further strengthen all pillars of bilateral cooperation.
On this strong foundation, I am very excited about the future prospects of our relationship as well.
You started your activity in Ukraine relatively recently. What were your first impressions of Ukraine and the Ukrainians? What did impress you most of all?
Undoubtedly, Ukraine is a beautiful country. Its people and the geography make it more appealing. Your trust in democracy and the determination I see in the people to practice it, is always a motivation. The country is enormously literate, the freedoms you practice, I am sure, are envied by many parts of the world. The responsibility this entails needs to be realized by the people as well. What strikes me most is that despite being thousands of kilometers apart, with differences in appearances, we share similarities in our soul. The love for our respective land, the spiritual outlook of the people and the quest for freedom unites us. In the Orthodox churches, the chanting is very reminiscent of the ceremonies in an Indian temple. Even the fragrance of incense is similar. When you observe deeply, you realize the striking similarities between our people.
Each season in Ukraine is distinct, so too is the geography of its different regions, and to the explorer in me, which we diplomats often are, this is always an exciting adventure and a challenge. I look forward to my stint with enthusiasm.