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Ambassador's interview for prominent Hungarian daily newspaper "Magyar Nemzet"in English language

Posted on: August 13, 2018 | Back | Print

Ambassador Mr. Rahul Chhabra’s interview for prominent Hungarian daily newspapers  Magyar Nemzet”

Is India jealous of China? China is more mentioned in news and people are thinking that it is a greater power than India.

-(laughs) China has really done a lot of things over the past three decades. I was posted there as well so I know from the first hand that it is true. In India and around the world, many people are impressed by the performance of China, but it comes with a price. We, the Indians, approach it differently. We can learn from China, but we want to succeed in our own way. Even so, our society and policy is totally different, as well as our society’s demographic composition (50 percent of the population is under 25 years of age). We are the world’s largest democracy and many people consider the choice we are taking as an example, where more than 800 milion voters are eligible to vote and most of them votes as well. Thus sometimes things are not comparable. It is like if we were comparing apples and oranges. Both sides can learn from each other.

Can China learn from India?

Well, we are traditionally open society, we do not prescribe how to live. We do not dictate terms and conditions. Our economy has been growing well for quite some time, different ethnic groups live in peace in India. We can serve as an example to others. We have free judiciary and a free press, people have choices and make them out of their own free will. This is what makes us a great nation.

What was the main purpose of recent visits by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Europe, Russia, and the United States? Is it to signal that India also intends to act as a great power?

These are mostly bilateral meetings, but there are as well multilateral ones, such as the G20 Summit in Germany or the Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. Previously, leaders of these countries were in India, now it is time for the Prime Minister of India to visit them. Of course, India is increasingly commited to the world. This has been tradition in India and if you look at it’s map you will see that we have thousand of miles of coastline. We Indians have been long-standing merchants and we are happy to have a visitors as well. Now India’s economy is gaining strength and we can increasingly deal with the world’s affairs, such as climate changes. During the meetings, we exchanged views on all global issues with different world leaders. Since India decides its position on major global issues on the bases of the merits of the issues, countries are invariably keen to seek our opinion. That’s why Prime Minister Modi traveled to these places.

China is doing better in trade with Hungary than India. According to the Central Statistical Office, in 2016, Hungary’s exports to India were only twelve times the quantity of China, and imports are tenths. Hungary has also opened two trading houses in India but our exports are smaller than our imports. How could the two countries increase the level of bilateral trade?

It is not fair to compare the numbers of India and China, because we have opened to the world more than ten years later than China, so China has big advantages in building economic relations. It is a fact that a numbers are low, both sides know this, but the situation is improving: this year’s first quarterly figures are thirty percent better than the last year’s. Our trade is of six hundred million euros, which should be increased.
Bilateral trade can be increased by the participation of companies from both countries in each other’s trade fairs, companies need to assess requirement in different sectors and meet these needs. Hungarian companies are showing keen interest in doing business in India as India has rapidly emerged as the ”Start-up” capital of the world. It may have also help the fact that our Government introduced electronic visa application, since last year Hungarians are able to obtain an Indian visa from home, without feeling the need of going to the Embassy. Fifty percent of the visas we issue have been e-visas. This can encourage people to go to visit India easily. It is important to know that people are able to fly from Vienna directly to India in the last few months, instead of going to Frankfurt or elsewhere. It may also be mentioned that today investments and not trade are the new and emerging critical aspect in economic relations between two countries. India is one of the largest green field investors in Hungary over the last few years. Two billion dollar investments from India has resulted in more than 10 000 jobs. This amount indicates that the Hungarian Government and Hungarian Businessmen are happy to see the Indian Businessmen who are continuing to increasing their investments in Hungary.

What is India’s relationship with its neighbors? Recently, there was talk of a new border dispute with China.

Our relationship with China could be described in a humorous way as the world’s biggest real-estate dispute (laughs). From the nearly 3,500 kilometers of our common border, just 200 km. in Sikkim region is clearly demarcated. The border between us is almost completely unmarked, and both sides would drive the lines elsewhere. Therefore there is always big problem if patrols walk in each other’s territory. At same time India and China, are two giant, mature countries, with thousands of years of civilization. For more than forty years, not a single bullet has been shot between two countries. It is worth looking at the bigger picture, where you can see that in many infrastructural areas (roads, telecommunications, energy sector, power grid etc.), China is one of the largest investors in India and one of our largest trading partner. We have relations with China on political, cultural and sport levels, both of us are members of BRICS and the G20. Before meetings like G20 and BRICS our leaders are liaising their views and approaches. So, our relationship is much more complex, and it cannot be described as a simple border dispute.

What about Pakistan and Kashmir?

Well, the main problem with Pakistan is state sponsored cross-border terrorism. Pakistan is training and financing the terrorists, who are then sent over the border, e.g. to Kashmir. Their main argument is that Kashmir belongs to them as it is inhabited by mostly Muslims. India has the second largest Muslim community in the world, nearly two hundred million muslims live here and they have full freedom to live peacefully and to travel to any place in India like any other Indian citizen. This is guaranteed by the constitution of India. There are many connections between our people, but as long as their activities do not change, they do not realize that such disputes cannot be resolved with terrorism. We are strengthening our borders and our forces in compliance with international laws.

Many Europeans are familiar with and love Darjeeling tea, but because of demonstrations and strikes, the best quality leaves could not be picked up. What is happening there and how to solve the situation?

If we talk about this, why do you not try our tea? (Laughs) Seriously saying, the local gurkha minority demands an independent state. But India is a strong democracy whose traditions are incompatible with such pressure. The Gurkhas have the opportunity to vote, and politicians representing their interest are there in the local and national parliament. New states are created in India if they are needed, especially for administrative reasons and efficient management. Our democracy is strong enough to resolve such debates, albeit a long time. We did not impose anything on anyone.

Yes, but tea leaves should be harvested as soon as possible, so a quick solution would be needed.

Everyone wants a solution and we are confident that just and viable solution will be found.

All right, let’s change the subject. I know that the caste system does not exist lawfully in India, but it is reported to be deeply embedded in society. Is it a live system?

The cast system has been legally abolished since 1949. It is worth mentioning the original form of caste system has been more or less abolished. It was fundamentally effective social organization, the casts were interoperable. It was created so that everybody could find a place where society could benefit. Over time, it became rigid and imperetable structure. Government has been taking many proactive steps to improve the situation of the lower casts who also often happen to be from the economically weaker section of society: this includes reserving jobs for them an all levels. Our society is developing, in my family also, there are cases of my cousin who have married people from different casts and religions. So, India is changing rapidly.

We can often hear stories about raping in India. How does the Government handle this problem?
Is it dangerous for woman to travel as a tourist in Indian streets?

This is a very interesting question that you have asked. Not only in India, we need to solve this problem all over the world. Women should feel safe no matter where they live and work. This topic is present very often what is good, because it indicates that Indian press is absolutely free. Government is trying to resolve the cases and increase security by enhancing patrolling in some areas, introduce new rules, strengthen police force, particularly women officers, install security cameras and developing public lighting system. Tourists in India are safe as they are in any major city of the world. ”Atithi devobhava”- the guest is equivalent to God is taken from an ancient scripture that became part of the  ”code of conduct” for Indian society and prescribes dynamic of the host-guest relationship.

A significant part of India’s society is struggling with poverty and religious ethnic conflicts in the country. How does India handle the growing Muslim population? Could these cases lead to a migration wave from India to the Western countries?

In modern India, public and private sectors do not deal with people’s religion. Religion is a personal matter. We often don’t know the religion of a person when we are communicating with him/her. As you are aware, there is debate in economic literature as to whether growing and large population is an asset or liability. The Government of India is focusing its efforts in providing skills to our youthful population so that they can contribute productively. Four great religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikh religion- editor) has their birthplace in India, whoever find its prosperity there we can only rejoice. With the worrying population growth it is difficult to maintain large families. Indian Government normally makes recommendations, granting certain benefits to small families.
India is democracy, it cannot force anyone to have a restricted amount of children. One of our biggest battles in the country is poverty, but we have created a lot of jobs lately. For this reason, it seems likely that migration from India will not go elsewhere, but vice versa. Especially from the neighboring countries and also from other countries many people come to India, because there is a lot of work opportunities- and because of that our economy will be much stronger as well.

Although we did not speak about other neighbors, my, last question would be related to Bangladesh. Global warming will hit them hard, due to rising sea levels, much of the country may be flooded. Do you expect an immigration wave coming from there?

There are already 20 million Bangladeshi migrants living in India, but they have not fled Bangladesh due to the global warming, but because of job opportunities. The economy of Bangladesh is also growing, so many people continue staying there. Global warming affects a lot of places in the West as well and it is really a problem of the whole world, so we are trying to develop our renewable energy resources and not to destroy mother-nature. We strongly believe that global warming should really be addressed and managed globally. The world needs to realize that it is our only planet and that is our shared responsibility to preserve it. The developed Western countries that have caused global warming, need to pass certain technologies to developing countries, and not ask for money for it because it is for preservation of Earth. If we do not act, it will have catastrophic consequences.

It is not helping the fact that President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Convention.

It was not a good sign, but the remaining countries joined together and took more seriously their commitments. This, in turn, is a good thing, and many big companies have indicated that they stick to climate protection. Humanity will certainly find some solution because human ingenuity has no limit. Before nature comes up with a solution, I am confident that mankind will.