News: The state visit by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to New Delhi (February 21-22) will be an important step in building a strategic relationship between India and Greece

The Greek Prime Minister said that, “India will find no better gateway to Europe than Greece and for Greece there is no better gateway to Asia than a close strategic relationship with India.”

India is perceived as an old and traditional friend of Greece, but also as a rising great power in the fast-changing global scene. Bilateral strategic, military and business cooperation has been moving along over the years, but at a slow and unhurried pace.

Historical and cultural ties:

● Both are among the world’s oldest democracies, with ancient cultures and civilisations.
● From Mauryan-era trade to the fascinating chronicles of Alexander the Great, linkages with Greece were significant in ancient India.

Defence ties and strategic ties:

The importance of security and stability: Greece and India are in many ways ‘prisoners’ of geography. They are located in areas strategically important to the global system but are areas that are at the same time geopolitically volatile.
● As recent events in the Red Sea have shown, the security, stability and prosperity of the East Mediterranean region, where Greece is situated, is vitally dependent on the security, stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region.
Defence Exercises: The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have been participating in joint exercises with the Greek armed forces and reciprocal exercises are planned from time to time.
● The Indian Air Force, for the first time, participated in the multinational exercise INIOCHOS 23, which was hosted by the Hellenic Air Force with four Su30 and two C-17 aircraft.
● In 2023, four Greek F-16s had their participation in Tarang Shakti, India’s largest air exercise.

Economic ties and Business ties:

● An Indian construction company, for example, is involved with a major Greek construction company in the building of a new airport on the island of Crete.

● Major investments have been made from India on food business in Greece. A mid-sized Indian shipping company has already opened a brokerage firm in Athens and looks to become a key player in the trans-Atlantic shipping market.
● A large systemic bank in Greece has tied up with a major Indian financial institution to sell mutual fund products globally.
● It is also interesting to note that Greece’s most important long-term foreign investor is Indian-Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa, founder and CEO of the Fairfax Financial Holdings. With knowledge of both countries, he has been a steady promoter of Greek-Indian business cooperation.
● Greece has been a strong supporter of deeper EU-India relations and is now working to ensure the EU-India bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA) is rapidly concluded, which would be a further catalyst to bilateral economic ties.
● As economic reforms by the Mitsotakis government over the last five years push the Greek economy towards a more sustainable growth path, and as Greece positions itself as the reliable eastern flank of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Eastern Mediterranean, also building its defence industry, the idea of constructing the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) is gaining in salience.

Way forward to strengthen more:

● The value of closer people-to-people ties that will preserve the heritage of our ancient linkages must not be ignored.
● It must be ensured that there is an attempt to remain familiar to each other even while Greece and India modernise themselves. There need to be more university student exchange programmes, more cultural exchanges and more media cooperation.
● Think tanks in both countries need to build more scholarships together. And, there definitely needs to be more travel links between the two countries.

It is now for government policymakers and businesses to follow their lead. The present and upcoming years are critical for the world and for Europe, and it has become a critical year in the building of the Greece-India strategic partnership.


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