"Indo-Armenian Relations: Challenges & Prospects"
A Round-Table ConferencE
June 20, 2013
On 17th June 2013, Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO (IAF) organized a Round-Table Conference dedicated to the theme “Indo-Armenian Relations: Challenges & Prospects” at Best Western Congress Hotel in Yerevan, Armenia. The Keynote address of the conference was delivered by H.E. Dr. Suresh Babu, Hon. Ambassador of India to the Republic of Armenia.
The goal of the conference was to discuss different prospects and their corresponding challenges between India and Armenia in culture, trade, education, S&T, Sports, and other relevant fields in order to canvass a conducive environment for future relation developments accordingly. The list of invitation included Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Science & Technology, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Diaspora, Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Industry Associations, Businessmen, YSMU and YSLU University Representatives, UNESCO Chair in Armenia, NGOs and other relevant serious stakeholders
The conference was sponsored by Esculap LLC from Armenia and Druck & Bindung Machinery Corp. from India.
During the round-table discussion, which was meant to be quite interactive, Indo-Armenian bilateral relations were discussed from different perspectives by different participants and stakeholders who are interested in the development of these relations.
Before starting the discussion, Mr. Rananjay Anand, Co-Founder & President of Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO gave a presentation about IAF with its brief history and activities so far. He emphasized that there is a strong need to tap the hidden potential of Indo-Armenian bilateral relations, and IAF could be one of the strong multiplying forces to facilitate the same, provided they have strong support from respective Governments and industry associations from both respective countries. According to him, the business exchange between India and Armenia is not encouraging, which could be translated as strong opportunities for interested businessmen
While delivering the Keynote Address of the conference, the Indian Ambassador Dr. Suresh Babu reiterated that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia entered into a new phase and India was among the first nations that recognized Armenia’s Independence and established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Armenia. He said, “Indo-Armenian diplomatic understanding on world platform is excellent at different levels and we’re now working to make this special relationship to advance level. Recently we’ve concluded the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Indo-Armenian diplomatic relationship.”
Dr. Babu highlighted the need of sending a cultural troupe from Armenia to India, as the main obstacle is the lack of awareness among Indians about Armenia.
He said, for Armenia, it’s time to look towards the east, especially towards natural friends like India, which is currently playing a leading role in the world economy. India has many things to offer to Armenia as her partner, be it knowledge sharing, IT contribution, Business exchange, Education collaboration, or even sports. India offers ITEC scholarships for its developing friendly countries, out of which 40 seats are offered to Armenia in a year, which is a great initiative for knowledge sharing with friend countries. The scholarship is completely borne by Govt. of India. Apart from that India has signed MoUs with Govt. of Armenia for a Scientific research exchange. He said they are planning to bring in all these activities and information on the website so that Armenian participants could benefit from the same. He emphasized that Armenians have one of the best brains in the world for IT and S&T, with which even India could be benefited.
He underlined the fact that the weakest link between Indo-Armenian relationships is Trade-Deficit. The need of the hour is to encourage mutual development of business. He said both of the countries are looking for ways to develop the same on a higher scale. But the biggest challenge is spreading awareness and showing the real prospects of investments in respective countries. He said if Govt. of Armenia could work out soon on a direct flight from Delhi to Yerevan, it would sort out few business-related issues.
He said Armenia is already contributing to India in the medical field with many Indian students studying in YSMU. However, it’s time to look beyond allopaths and take forward the benefits of Ayurveda and Yunani (Greek) methodology offered by India. He said Govt. of India is already offering scholarship programs in both courses, which is fully paid for by the Indian side. Armenian students should be encouraged to pursue the same, so that they come back to Armenia, open their clinic, and practice with recognition from Govt. of Armenia.
The rector of YSMU, Mr. Michael Narimanyan complemented this proposal from the hon. Ambassador by saying that YSMU is ready to collaborate in any research offered by India and they would like to know more about the traditional and conventional medical system of India.
Ms. Lusine Fldjyan, the Vice-Rector for International Affairs, YSLU after Brusov came up with few suggestions in the field of education collaborations between Indian and Armenia universities, which was well taken by the participants.
“We will continue to show our support to Armenia in a very humble way”, said Dr. Babu.
Mr. Eduard Kirakosyan, Executive Director of the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen (Employers) of Armenia said that union members have already a partnership with few Indian businessmen but it’s time to develop more.
Mr. H. Sarafian from Esculap LLC said that since 1996 Esculap is in business with Indian Pharma Manufacturers. This conference may bring confidence in Armenian consumers, as they have a certain apprehension about Indian medicines, but the company’s experience shows that it’s on par with European standards.
Bollywood Shooting in Armenia
Mr. Rananjay Anand, the President of IAF and moderator of the conference highlighted in his presentation with special mention of Tourism Development, which is considered to be one of the main strengths of the Armenian Economy. He cited the UNWTO report, which predicts, India will supply about 50 Million Outbound Tourists by 2020, which will be the largest outbound tourism market.
He suggested if Govt. of Armenia could attract the “Bollywood Industry”, the Hindi Movie Industry, it would change the complete scenario of the Armenian Tourism Market. The idea was strongly endorsed by Dr. Suresh Babu, Hon. Ambassador of India, who said it’s not only about Bollywood, but India’s Southern parts too are very rich in movie making and they vouch for beautiful foreign locations across the globe, provided they get excellent support and subsidies from the host country. So even if that part could be tapped, it will solve the purpose. It’s not only about destination promotion, but directly it will increase employment opportunities for local Armenians too. But for all this Govt. of Armenia should come out with a strong and concrete plan to woo the Bollywood Industry of India.
Responding with enthusiasm, Mr. Mekhak Apresyan, the Head of Tourism & Territorial Economic Development Department from Ministry of Economy stated that they would like to look into this matter seriously and would like to discuss it further with all stakeholders to explore how Govt. of Armenia could approach this in right direction.
Mr. Pankaj Saxena, HOC, Embassy of India informed that Armenia’s neighboring countries Turkey and Georgia are doing this excellently and they are already reaping out the results. He said if a country like Afghanistan, could attract Indian Movie-Makers, then Armenia is far ahead of them.
Mr. Rananjay Anand urged all participants of the conference to speak and participate frankly in order to address the real issues. The participants responded well and asked questions related to business problems in Armenia, education opportunities in India and many relevant issues to the representatives from both sides, i.e Indian Embassy and Ministries of Govt. of Armenia. In an answer to the question from a science enthusiast, Ms. Lilit Vardanyan, from UNESCO Chair in Armenia and also in charge of IAF’s Science & Technology Club, said that she got scholarship from Govt. of India in her scientific researches and she could do her researches in such a manner, which she couldn’t find in even European Institutes and that helped her to contribute back to Armenia in her research with Lake Sevan’s water project.
While concluding the conference Mr. Rananjay Anand thanked all participants and stakeholders and announced that this is just beginning. If they have support from all stakeholders, IAF could come up with more events like this.