Ambassador of India to Ukraine: Our country can provide Ukraine with a lot of money
Exclusive interview by the Ambassador of India to Ukraine Mr. Manoj Kumar Bharti with the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency
Q1: How would you describe current opportunities for cooperation between Ukraine and India?
We observed that development of relations between our countries slowed over the past two years. However, we want to start the year 2016 with new ideas to activate cooperation. We have already scheduled a large number of meetings and events in this respect.
The resumption of activities has already started. A delegation of the Ukrainian-Indian intergovernmental working group on public health and pharmaceuticals recently visited Ukraine. We hope that this visit will both help to resolve some of the issues that Indian pharmaceutical companies face, and that it will facilitate mutually beneficial contacts in other important for us areas.
The trade turnover in 2013 between India and Ukraine reached $3 billion. This figure has decreased, but we've set a goal to return to this level in 2016.
Speaking globally, Ukraine is a strategic partner of India. These are not lofty words. It is the truth. Our relations have a rich history, and at present, we have a fruitful development in economic and defense sectors. In addition, we are very active in specialized areas, such as pharmaceuticals and import of sunflower oil from Ukraine to India.
We also consider various opportunities to cooperate in medical field. Indian medical services are developed on a rather high-level and we are ready to set up joint enterprises to provide medical services for Ukrainians.
Q2: Speaking of cooperation in the agricultural sector, are Indian businesses ready to invest into Ukraine?
I think that it will possibly be relevant for Indian companies to invest into Ukraine later. In my opinion, now Ukrainian farmers have to realize that India needs their products and take steps to tap into the new market. I believe that Ukrainian agricultural producers are simply unaware of this yet, though, there are a few Ukrainian companies in this business. I have already suggested that they organize a delegation of Ukrainian farmers to visit India and see with their own eyes the prominence of exactly legumes in the Indian cuisine. As soon as Ukrainian farmers realize the demand spread for legumes in India, our businessmen will be ready to come to Ukraine to start joint ventures.
Q3: What are the obstacles for the development of this cooperation at the moment?
The main impediment is lack of information about these opportunities, as Ukrainians are more oriented to the West than the East. Besides, I also noticed that Ukrainians perceive India as located faraway. In fact, this is not true, for example, the distance between Odessa and the nearest Indian port is not that big. And if we launch direct flights from Kyiv to Delhi, like a few years ago, an air trip will take only around five hours.
Q4: Are Indian airline companies ready to open direct flights to Ukraine?
I'm trying to convince them to include Kyiv on regular routs. If we speak of only Kyiv-Delhi direction, I don't think there will be a lot of carriers. I believe such a flight should cover a few cities, for example, Kyiv-Sofia-Delhi or Kyiv-Vienna-Delhi, therefore, the rout has to have more than two destination points. There are opportunities for such routs, and it is a matter of time, when one of the carriers uses this option.
Q5: Let's go back to sunflower oil exports from Ukraine. Are there any issues related to transportation or any technical hurdles to activate export of this product?
Perhaps, there are some technical details, since the transportation is carried out by water via ports. I haven't received any information of systemic problems so far. I would have known if there were such reports.
Ukraine can produce over 11 million tonnes of sunflower oil, while India is among its biggest buyers – about four tonnes. These are fairy large transportation volumes. If any problems arise, I think businesses have means to resolve them.
Q6: On cooperation in the aviation sector. There used to be a large Ukraine-based project to upgrade 40 Indian An-32 planes. The last batch of planes after modernization was transferred to the Indian side. Will this project continue or restart?
As of today, this project hasn't been completed. It is ongoing. We try to make use of all the opportunities created when Ukrainian experts participate in the "Made in India" project. In line with the agreement, part of the aircraft should be modernized directly in India, while technology should also be transferred. All of this is in progress. It's a long-term project.
Q7: Does this mean India will compete with Ukraine, which also aims to set up production in the country? Won't there be a contradiction?
I don't think there might be a competition. It will be a mutually beneficial cooperation, as Ukraine may find areas of demand in India, just like India – in Ukraine. For example, one of the ideas concerns the creation of "smart city" – construction of ecological and energy-efficient houses for various social groups of Indian population. There are numerous sectors and niches in this area that Ukrainian companies may receive orders and profits from.
Q8: Is India interested in the Ukrainian machinery, including agricultural machines, tractors? To what extend?
Ukrainian tractors are not very attractive for India, as the country produces many types of these machines, being the second largest tractor producer in the world. However, tractors that are manufactured in India have low horse power capacity, around 35 hp.
India also produces agricultural machinery; to my knowledge, Ukraine and India never cooperated in this sector, also due to differences between agricultural models of the countries. For example, Indian land plots are much smaller than Ukrainian ones, so large agricultural machines are not used. But, of course, if Ukrainian companies adapt to these specifics and offer solutions to improve agricultural machines based on the conditions on the ground, I think cooperation in this sector would also be possible.
Q9: How will India promote its business offers in Ukraine? Will it activate information work, business contacts, and meetings?
We actively cooperate with Indian and Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce at the moment. In particular, we plan to hold business meeting and seminars both in India and Ukraine.
Perhaps, a business delegation from India will visit Ukraine in April or May, and we hope that a delegation of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce will visit India in October-November.
Q10: During a visit of the Ukrainian parliamentary delegation to India there were complaints from representatives of Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce that Indian businessmen had difficulties getting Ukrainian visas. Is this an actual problem in your opinion?
Yes, this problem really exists. Indian businessmen face problems obtaining Ukrainian visas. We are making efforts to resolve this problem and I have been assured by Ukraine's Foreign Ministry that it was actively considering this issue. I am confident that the situation will improve in the nearest future.
Q11: What are the outcomes of the visit by the Indian delegation in the framework of the Ukrainian-Indian intergovernmental working group on public health and pharmaceuticals?
I would say that it was a working meeting. The last meeting of this working group was held in India in 2013; the next one was scheduled for 2014, but it was postponed; that's why we are very pleased that this meeting took place after over two-year break.
Besides, we had time to reassess and rethink everything that had happened in Ukraine and its economy, and how this has affected the pharmaceutical industry. For example, there are reports that Indian pharmaceutical exports to Ukraine overall declined in 2015, compared to 2014. Exports of pharmaceuticals to India also declined.
There is a need to discuss this issue, because supply of Indian drugs and substances to Ukraine is a win-win undertaking. Indian pharmaceutical products are of high quality and cost relatively little, compared to analogous European products. Ukraine saves money by importing Indian pharmaceuticals. And this is a mutual benefit. This was a topic that we tried to discuss during our meeting.
I am very pleased that both Ukraine and India have realized that the system of market access itself needed improvements, so that Indian pharmaceuticals could enter Ukrainian market without artificial barriers.
Additionally, we exchanged ideas as to the training and education of experts and also discussed cooperation in biotechnologies and bioproduction. These are the main achievements of these meetings.
Q12: Are Indian pharmaceutical companies think of leaving the Ukrainian market, because it's much smaller that the Indian one?
No, there is no such problem that Indian companies have left the Ukrainian market. Ukraine is important and attractive for them.
Just official data on turnover shows billions of dollars and this is very interesting for companies. I think that Indian pharmaceutical companies would like to increase their presence on the Ukrainian market. Ukrainians know the reason: the efficacy of Indian medicines. From this perspective, Ukraine has already a well-established market for Indian products. I don't think any of the Indian companies would leave the Ukrainian market.
We are now observing the implementation of European standards in the Ukrainian legal framework, both regulatory, and those related to drug control. We welcome these processes. The more Ukrainian legislation will comply with EU standards, the easier it will be for the Indian products to enter Ukrainian market, as our products are already on the European market streamlined with the EU requirements.
At the same time, it is also true that some Indian companies face challenges today. But I think that is a result, in particular, of the instability of Ukrainian society. As soon as both the economy and society stabilize, it will be easier to do business in Ukraine, including for Indian companies.
Q13: Are you optimistic about cooperation between Ukraine and India?
I'm very optimistic. People in Ukraine are very honest, logical, and consistent. We have to remind Ukraine that India is a huge market which may interest any Ukrainian company. And Ukrainians sometimes even don't fully realize that just 0.1% of Indian population equals to 125,000 people.
I like giving this example: no one in India eats cottage cheese and sour cream, but if you want to sell these products, it's enough to focus on four large cities, which together account for over half of Ukraine's population. You will just need to make a proper advertising on big boards, show how useful sour cream and cottage cheese are, and how they can be consumed. In this way, one may already target a huge number of people.
I think that it is quite easy to develop business in India. Ukrainian businessmen just need to think a little bit and concentrate.
Q14: What can India give Ukraine except medicines?
India can give Ukraine a lot of money, particularly if Ukraine opens its touristic market. Make it easier for rich people from India to come to Ukraine. The problem today is that it is very difficult to get a Ukrainian tourist visa. In 2015, around 20,000 tourists came from Ukraine to India, however, we don't know how many tourist visas Ukrainian Embassy to India had issued. And I would be very surprised if they had issued real tourist visas, not just visas for people who live in Ukraine and have families here, but real tourist visas for tourists, who come to Ukraine for touristic purposes.
We also don't realize that Indian students, who study in Ukraine, spend $ 30 million annually.
Q15: Would Indian tourists go to Ukraine?
I'm sure they'd love to come to Ukraine. For example, Ukrainian weather is very comfortable in summer, while people in India suffer from heat in this period. There are many wealthy people in India who are willing to come to Ukraine and spend a lot of money. According to our data, 30% of India's population has the same balance of purchasing power as U.S. residents, that is, they spend approximately the same amount of money. Some 30% of India's population equals 360 million people, almost the entire population of Europe. Ukraine should understand that India presents them with a huge tourism market. One can make and create a lot in this sphere. You only need to open the country. I'm really looking forward to an improvement with respect to the Ukraine-India visa regime already this year.