Friendly relations between India and Serbia strengthened considerably in the past one year, and all planned future activities will naturally restart after the global situation of COVID-19 normalizes
“In the second half of 2019, there were two important high-level exchanges. Hon’ble Speaker of Lok Sabha (House of People of Indian Parliament) visited Belgrade in October 2019 for participating in the 141st Assembly of Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), while Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar visited Belgrade in November 2019. There are a plenty of room for improving our economic and bilateral cooperation., such as agriculture, pharmaceutical industry, torusim, film industry. ..I hope to see more progress in this field in the coming days”, said H.E. Subrata Bhattacharjee, Indian ambassador to Serbia, for the special issue dedicated to Indian-Serbian relations.
India has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions intensity per unit GDP by 33 to 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030
India and Serbia traditionally have very close relations. Many developments took place in the past one year. What are your plans for the future?
Traditionally warm, close and friendly relations between India and Serbia strengthened considerably in the past one year. In the second half of 2019, we had two important high-level exchanges. Hon’ble Speaker of Lok Sabha (House of People of Indian Parliament) visited Belgrade in October 2019 for participating in the 141st Assembly of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). This was a major multilateral event held in Belgrade after a long time. The visit of Hon’ble Speaker was also an important Parliamentary visit after a long gap. He led a large Parliamentary delegation from India and had meetings with Serbian dignitaries and Speakers of other countries on the sidelines of IPU Assembly.
In another landmark development, Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar visited Belgrade in November 2019. This being a Foreign Minister-level visit from India after many years, the visit generated much interest. A Defence Cooperation Agreement was signed by the two countries during the visit. Because of Corona virus problem and the restrictions on travel, no visit could be organized during the first half of 2020. Still there were exchanges between the two countries when Hon’ble First Dy. PM & Foreign Minister of Serbia spoke to Minister of External Affairs of India in March. There were also plans for large Indian participation in International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad in May 2020, but the Trade Fair was postponed because of COVID-19 pandemic. There were more plans for visits of Indian business delegation and Indian participation in Serbian Trade Fairs. Because of the postponement of the Trade Fairs, the plans are being revised. Activities will naturally restart after global situation of COVID-19 normalizes.
Pharmaceuticals play an important role in any country’s economy. This has become more evident as the world is facing COVID-19 pandemic. What is India’s strength in pharmaceutical sector?
India possesses natural strength in knowledge-based industries like pharmaceuticals. India, which began initially as an exporter of bulk drugs or Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), subsequently started producing finished pharmaceutical formulations more. In the last financial year, India exported pharmaceuticals world over US $ 20 billion. It is no wonder that India is now called “Pharmacy of the World” because India is the world’s 4th largest pharmaceuticals formulation exporter by volume besides being the largest exclusive generic drug exporter by value.
India has 8 of its generic drug manufacturers among the top 20 global drug manufacturers. Finished pharmaceutical formulations now account for 70% of India’s pharma exports.
Serum Institute of India is gearing up to produce one billion doses of Oxford University vaccine
India is exporting pharmaceuticals to many highly regulated markets like the USA, South Africa, United Kingdom and Brazil among others. Most of India’s generic drug exports (almost 65-70%) indeed go to a highly regulated market. The vaccine is another segment in which India’s contribution is outstanding. WHO sources over 65% of its essential immunization vaccine requirements from India. Serum Institute of India, a major global producer of vaccines, says “65% of children in the world receive at least one vaccine of their manufacture.” At a time when the global economy is heading for a long recession because of COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has opened new doors for the pharmaceutical sector. Naturally, Indian pharma companies that have saved the lives of millions throughout the world by supplying quality life-saving drugs at affordable prices are not lagging behind to join the fight against pandemic.
India supplied Hydroxychloroquine tablets to 112 nations as well as Paracetamol to 23 countries and reinforced its image as “Pharmacy of the World”. Indian companies are at the forefront in bulk manufacturing and supply of potential medicines such as Remdesivir, Favipiravir, Tocilizumab approved for COVID-19 treatment for the global population. Seven Indian companies – Cipla Ltd., Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Hetero Ltd. Jubilant Life Sciences, Syngene, Zydus Cadila Healthcare Ltd. and Mylan – had signed license with Gilead for manufacturing and export of Remdesivir to 127 countries. Several Indian firms are currently working on development of COVID-19 vaccine. India’s indigenous vaccine ‘COVAXIN” have entered clinical trials. Serum Institute of India is gearing up to produce one billion doses of Oxford University vaccine. Against this backdrop, India and Serbia can gain a lot by cooperating in pharmaceutical sector.
How can it be mutually beneficial for India and Serbia?
Serbia’s epidemiological profile is the same as that of other European countries where India is supplying pharmaceuticals. Serbian pharmaceuticals market worth US$ 1.27 billion includes a large component of generic drugs (around 63% or US $ 800 million), where Indian pharma companies have natural strength. Thus, India can certainly be a supplier of quality medicines to Serbia at affordable prices.
Serbia with its beautiful landscape, vibrant culture and appealing cuisine can be a new source of attraction for Indian tourists
Another area of cooperation in pharma sector could be Ayurveda and Herbal medicines as Ayurveda, Homeopathy, etc. are recognized in Serbian law as Complementary medicines. Since Serbian laws permit practice of different complementary medicines including Ayurveda, the use of Ayurveda can certainly promote healthy living and well-being of Serbians. Serbian Ayurveda experts are already in discussions with their Indian counterparts on this issue and I hope to see more progress in this field in the coming days.
Do you think agriculture could be a promising area for bilateral cooperation?
A three-trillion-dollar economy and the 5th largest in the world, India had set a GDP target of US $ 5 trillion. India is also a major global importer. In 2019, India’s annual import was US $ 514 billion. Agricultural products accounting for import worth US $ 17 billion have a significant place in India’s import basket. Since agriculture plays a major role in Serbian economy, Serbia can naturally benefit from it. India imports fresh fruits worth US $ 500 million in a year, out of which apple constitutes over US $ 200 million. Serbian apple growers have taken due note of it. Serbia participated in World Food India 2017, a major agriculture promotional event in India on food and food processing. Subsequently, there were few exchanges of visits from both sides to finalize apple export from Serbia to India.
What could be specific achievements?
At the moment, few Serbian companies are ready to send their apple consignment to India. Other items of India’s agricultural imports that can be of Serbia’s interest are edible oil, paper and paper pulp, wood, etc. Since agriculture is the mainstay of the Serbian economy, this offers a great opportunity to Indian manufactures for supplying agricultural machinery to Serbia. Serbians also acknowledge India as a supplier of quality agricultural machinery at affordable prices. Two years back, the Indian company TAFE that had a long association with Serbia acquired a leading tractor brand of Serbia and its factory for manufacturing TAFE tractors in Serbia under IMT brand name. In fact, two other leading tractor companies of India, namely Mahindra and Sonalika have their assembly lines in Serbia with Serbian partners. There are similar opportunities for various other types of agricultural machineries. Keeping this in mind, India companies participated in International Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad in May 2019. India was planning to have a bigger participation at the same trade fair in May 2020, but the Fair was postponed due to COVID-19. As the situation normalizes and the trade fair resumes, Indian companies will certainly come to future Serbian Agriculture Fairs.
Tourism and film industry can add further momentum to bilateral economic cooperation. Do you think that Serbia can be a new location for Indian film producers?
Indian tourists are the new global trotters. With growing prosperity and the increasing size of the affluent class in India, Indians are now travelling abroad more and more for leisure and recreation. Annually 26 million Indians travel abroad for tourism and leisure, thus spending US $ 23 billion for such activities abroad. While the traditional destinations of Indian tourists used to be some well-known European countries, America, South East Asia etc, Serbia with its beautiful landscape, vibrant culture and appealing cuisine can be a new source of attraction for Indian tourists. With the introduction of visa free entry for short visits by Indians to Serbia, tourist arrival from India to Serbia has gone up significantly. Over 37,000 Indians visited Serbia during 2018-2019. With greater focus on group tourism, tourism/conference packages for senior management/dealers of corporate houses, Serbian tourism industry will certainly be able to attract more Indian tourists in the coming years.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily halted activities in tourism and movie shooting, I am sure, traffic will restart with renewed vigor once the situation normalizes
In India, movie and tourism go hand in hand. Bollywood, the acronym for Hindi film industry, produces the largest number of movies in the world (2960 movies in a year) and has an annual turnover of US $ 2 billion. Additionally, there is a thriving film industry in many regional languages producing 1600 movies annually. With such a gigantic production base, Bollywood and other regional Indian film industries often go abroad for shooting some of the scenes. In the past few years, Serbia has been able to attract a number of movie producers of India. 4- 5 movies from South India were earlier shot in Serbia. Among Hindi Bollywood movies, ‘Soorma’ had a number of scenes shot in Serbia. ‘Uri The Surgical Strike’, the first Bollywood blockbuster of 2019 was primarily shot in Serbia. This was followed by ‘Baghi-3’ by one of the big movie production houses of India who had a movie shooting schedule in Serbia. Overall, this is welcome development and can cement stronger economic ties. This is because shooting of Indian movies in Serbia not only generates revenue for Serbia but also popularizes Serbia as a tourist spot among Indian tourists. This will in turn attract more Indian tourists to Serbia. While the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily halted activities in tourism and movie shooting, I am sure, traffic will restart with renewed vigor once the situation normalizes.
Climate change challenges faced by the world underline the need for clean energy. In this connection, what are India’s plan in the field of renewable energy sector?
As humankind makes progress in the field of Science & Technology, climate change has become a new global challenge. The challenge is truly global in nature as the ill effects of climate pollution is never restricted to the polluting country alone. Global warming caused by greenhouse gas emission is affecting even the Polar region and the people living in coastal areas throughout the world. Against this backdrop, Renewable Energy (RE) has become one of the most important factors and hope for the world to preserve the pristine environment and the planet’s resources for future generations. India has been leading the world on this front showing the developing nations of the world a way forward for socio-economic growth without degradation of the environment. To meet its ambitious targets and commitment to the entire world in the fight against climate change, India has been rolling out multiple initiatives, programs, policies and incentives to accelerate the development of the RE sector.