Mr. Marton Ugrosdy, Director, The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT), Budapest,
Amb. Partha Satpathy, Ambassador of India to Hungary,
Amb. Andras Laszlo Kiraly, Ambassador of Hungary to India,
Amb Rahul Chhabra Former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs and all Chairs, Speakers, and Participants – thanking you for joining and it is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Third ICWA-IFAT Dialogue.
At the outset, on behalf of ICWA, let me congratulate Hungary on the successful completion of its elections and the victory of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Discussions, today, are structured around three key themes-
Even as we are still dealing with the challenges of the Covid pandemic, we are witnessing ferment and instability in several regions across the world. The evolving situation in Ukraine has had very wide and far-reaching impact on geo-politics and geo-economics. At one level, it has reignited the fears of a return to cold war rivalry and at another, the stability of the international order is under stress. In Europe, Ukraine’s situation has generated debate and a re-think about its security framework. Consideration of Ukraine’s membership of NATO was a redline for Russia and now European countries like Finland and Sweden are also seeking membership of NATO and there could be a reaction from Russia. Several Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia with some exceptions but yet there are variations in the positions of European countries. How will that impact the future expansion and unity of EU? Moreover, there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding. Europe has received millions of Ukrainian refugees – how will such large numbers be looked after? At this stage, I want to thank Hungary for the support extended for the evacuation of Indians from Ukraine – Ambassador Partha Satpathy who has joined us today was India’s Ambassador in Ukraine then.
Ramifications of Ukraine situation extend to global energy and food security. In Europe, despite talks to reduce reliance of Russian energy and to secure alternative supplies, at least currently, there appears no viable or winnable option or strategy. It needs to be seen whether this will be feasible and what will be the role of OPEC to meet shortfalls. India, one of the fastest growing major economies, is also the fastest growing consumer market in the world. Energy security is vital for India. The Ukrainian crisis has also affected the supply of agricultural commodities which is jeopardizing global food security, particularly for vulnerable populations in the Middle East and Africa. Today, rising oil and food prices are pushing inflation and adding further distress to economies already under stress due to the pandemic.
India’s position on Ukraine is clear. It has called for immediate cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution through dialogue between Russia and Ukraine. As the world watches the conflict in Ukraine unfold, there is no doubt that many lessons will be learnt from this crisis.
In our immediate neighborhood, Sri Lanka is in midst of its worst economic and debt crisis. India has extended economic support to Sri Lanka in the form of supplies of essential commodities viz petrol, diesel, and rice as well as a Line of Credit of US$ 2.5 bn. The situation in Afghanistan continues to be unsettled and of deep concern. India supports the formation of an inclusive and representative government in Afghanistan and has extended humanitarian assistance as it remains committed to the well-being of the Afghan people. Pakistan, for past few weeks, experienced high intensity political developments and has undergone a change of government. India believes that it is important that the region remains peaceful and stable and free of terror.
The Indo-Pacific remains a pivot, for global geo-politics due to its strategic and economic significance. Apart from the economic dynamism of the region, major consequential factor in influencing the recent geopolitical canvas is China’s asymmetric rise, its increasing foothold and assertiveness as it makes territorial claims against its maritime and land neighbours and, of course, the increasing US-China strategic contestation.
India is a major stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific and its vision is of a ‘free, open, inclusive, transparent and rules based’ region. India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative defines its outreach to the region, seeking partnerships in seven pillars ranging from maritime security to maritime ecology and maritime resources. ASEAN has a centrality in the Indo-Pacific region. As we discuss the evolving dynamics in the Indo-Pacific, we would be interested in hearing from the Hungarian side about what are their priorities in the region, in what areas do they see convergence with India, and as we deliberate on the emerging security architecture in the Indo-Pacific, how the US-China strategic competition in the region and the developments related to Taiwan are viewed in Budapest.
Europe-India ties have made progress in recent years. The India-EU summits, held on 15 July 2020 and 8 May 2021, significantly enhanced the strategic dimension of the bilateral relationship. India has recognised the EU as a reliable partner in various strategic areas like climate change, connectivity, and military to military dialogue. Further impetus to enhancing our partnership was given during the recently held India-EU Indo-Pacific Forum, where the Foreign Ministers agreed to deepen security relations by “coordinating maritime presence in the north-west Indian Ocean” and enhancing cybersecurity. President of the European Commission Ursala Von De Leyen has just concluded her visit to India and during this visit it has been decided to establish India-EU Trade and Technology Council to fast track our engagements in trade and technology domain in addition to the continued talks on climate agenda.
COVID has exposed shortcomings and fault-lines of the international system. As we discuss the contours of the post-pandemic world order, one of the key issues of deliberation is the economic recovery. The pandemic has changed the economic environment – on one hand, it has slowed down the growth rates of the countries across the world and on the other hand, has focused on the need for reliable supply chains. This has opened opportunities for countries to advance and diversify economic cooperation with trusted countries.
India and Hungary’s relations are marked with high degree of trust and mutual respect. Both share long-standing friendly relations, marked by political contacts, economic engagement and cultural links. Trade and investments have grown significantly in recent years at approximately US$ 2 bn. The new drivers of growth could be collaboration in new and emerging technologies, prospects for developing joint projects.
Both countries remain strongly committed to the enhancement of cooperation and deal with changes in the global scenario. Both India and Hungary are linked by a shared interest in maintaining a rules-based international order and have maintained a regular dialogue.
We look forward to our deliberations today and hope that they will add more depth to our understanding of this multi-faceted partnership. We hope to have a concrete view of Indian and Hungarian perspectives on the various issues on the agenda and look forward to the recommendations by our eminent speakers and Chairs. Thank you.