India’s Ambassador to Hungary, Malay Mishra, gives the lowdown on his astonishing country and the bilateral relationship.
Is India the wildest, weirdest, most phantasmagorical country in the world, with its manifold gods, holy cows, snake charming, rope tricks, the Taj, Red Forts, Golden Temple, pink city and so much more?
It is true that India abounds in contradictions. While it has preserved its millennium-old culture, a visitor can also see the outstanding progress that the country has made since independence in 1947. That perhaps attracts India to a good number of tourists to seek different things according to their taste. India today stands out as one of the most attractive investment destinations of the world and a top emerging developing economy.
Your embassy in Budapest has a cultural centre attached. Are you spreading Indian culture successfully?
Our cultural centre is now called Amrita Sher-Gil Cultural Centre and it is promoting a lot of activities depending on the requirements of the local people. Hungarians are extremely fond of India’s culture and heritage and would like to gratify themselves in several ways, in so far as India is concerned, either staying at home or visiting our country, The cultural centre stands out as one of the major highlights of Hungary’s cultural landscape and has been engaging in a number of activities in Budapest as well as in various parts of the country by organising India Days and related shows.
What do Hungarians really know about India? What are six important facts they should know?
Hungarians mostly know about cultural facets of India. They should know – (1) India is the oldest civilisation and largest democracy in the world, (2) India has 18 officially recognised languages besides over 500 dialects, (3) India has 29 States and seven Union Territories, each having their own individual cultures and ways of living. Thus a visitor to India will have to travel through a sub-continent, such as Europe, (4) India has launched several satellites into space over the past 20 years from its own launching station in Sriharikota in southern India. The latest was a satellite to promote e-health linking high-tech health facilities with other countries of the world, (5) India has a 7,240-kilometre coastline that is well guarded by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. The Indian Ocean is the only body of water in the world named after a country, (6) Indian Railways is the largest employer of the government and employs over 1.6 million people. The Indian railway network of nearly 15 million kilometres has 13 million passengers commuting every day.
How many Hungarians a year visit India?
This is in the range of 4,000-5,000, for multiple reasons, including seeking job opportunities.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was there last October. Did his visit achieve anything long-lasting?
Mr. Orban’s visit has laid the ground for bilateral economic cooperation in a major way. There are many areas such as water and waste management, agriculture, agro-processing, science and technology, defence, automobile and automotive parts, ICT, energy including renewable, SMEs etc. that have opened up. The list is long. We are opening several new areas within the framework of bilateral cooperation that are covered under the Joint Economic Commission, which meets annually and reviews various aspects of economic and trade cooperation.
How are Indian-Hungarian relations politically?
They are characterised by warmth and cordiality. Both the countries have new governments now. Both leaders, Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Narendra Modi in India, are dynamic, forward-looking nationalistic leaders. Both would like to take their respective countries on the course of self-reliance and with the spirit of nationalism. We have much to share with each other. Hungary has been close to India since the latter’s independence, long before Hungary became free from Soviet influence. The Government of India, taking up the cause of Dr. Arpad Gonz, when the latter was condemned to harsh punitive measures, is too well-known to bear repetition. Hungary was among the first countries in the Warsaw Pact with whom India established political as well as trade relations. Similarly, India was the largest and most important country for Hungary in terms of promoting trade and commerce. There has been a great deal of exchanges at every level including at the level of President and Prime Minister, besides regular exchange of parliamentarians. This has led to a great deal of friendship and understanding that has translated into excellent bilateral relations in all fields.
What are the trade/business links between Hungary and India? The main companies, goods, exports and imports between the two countries? Trade balance? Investment amounts? Economic growth, GDP?
India’s relations with Hungary have been close and friendly, multi-faceted and substantive, and have stood the test of time. According to the Economic Survey 2013-14 tabled in the Indian Parliament on 9 July 2014 by Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley, gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow at 5.4-5.9% in 2015. The survey reports that the services sector will constitute 57% share in GDP at factor cost (at current prices) in 2014.
How many Hungarian businesses/individuals are in India and what important things are they doing? Do they have any particular problems there?
Investment flows are largely from India to Hungary, spread over several sectors such as IT, pharmaceuticals, power, auto-components, food processing and electrical machinery, etc. SMR, TCS, Genpact, Cognizant, Wipro, Sun Pharma, Crompton Greaves are among the companies that are active in Hungary. With a total accumulated investment of USD 1.8 billion to date, Indian companies have created employment opportunities for more than 8,000 people in Hungary.
How are business customs and practices in India?
These were earlier unorthodox as the Indian economy until the early 1990s was largely state-controlled. However, and particularly in the last decade, India has caught up with technical innovations and modern practices. Now it can easily be said that the business and investment environment in India is one of the most conducive in the world.
What about trade agreements, visits, trade fairs, delegations?
During the visit of Mr. Orbán in October 2013, where he was accompanied by a large business delegation, four Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) and two Letters of Intent (LoI) were signed in the following areas: (1) MoU on Traditional Systems of Medicine, (2) MoU on Cooperation in Sports, (3) MoU on Cooperation on Defensive Aspects of Microbiological and Radiological Detection and Protection, (4) Cultural Exchange Programme for 2013-2015, (5) LoI on Revision of Air Services Agreement, (6) LoI for Indo-Hungarian Strategic Research Fund (enhanced contribution of EUR 2 million each for 2014-17). In addition to these agreements, a number of other agreements and MoUs signed in the past provide the overall institutional framework for economic cooperation with Hungary.
Mr. Orbán’s visit was followed by then-foreign minister Mr. Martonyi in November 2013 to participate in an Asia-Europe (ASEM) Meeting, where he held bilateral consultations with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. An investment delegation from the State of Gujarat with 18 major companies will be shortly visiting Hungary as part of an Eastern and Central European tour. In addition various official visits in the fields of S&T, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), water resource management, agriculture, etc. are in various stages of finalisation.
Do you have any interesting business stories?
BHE Bonn Hungary participated in the space programs of India, such as the Chandrayaan-1 first Moon and Mars missions. ISRO launched the Chandrayaan-1 (this means “reaching the moon” in Hindi) satellite in October 2008. This was a very successful mission. BHE Bonn Hungary developed and manufactured some very important microwave equipment that was used as part of the Microwave Ground Checkout System in the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota Space Port. Chandrayaan-1 was the first ever satellite mission to find water-ice on the surface of the moon. Further, BHE Bonn Hungary has been participating in the Mars Mission of India. This is the first event for India to send a space probe to another planet. BHE has been supplying special high-tech microwave receivers for the Indian Deep Space Network.
What is keeping you busiest in your job at the moment?
Promoting trade and economic relations as well as science, technology and innovation is my current priority. I am convinced that both sides have solid understanding and appreciation of each other’s culture and civilisation. However these need to be supplemented by economic and scientific ties for which there is ample scope and potential.
Some of the things you support in Hungary?
I like to know more about Hungary, its culture, history and above all, people. I feel good about visiting places out of the ordinary in this country. I like Hungarian wines and cuisine, besides its wonderful cultural and ecological diversity.
How does Hungary rate on the scale of difficulty (or as an enjoyable posting) for Indian ambassadors?
Hungary does not qualify as a difficult posting in my view. It is rather an enjoyable posting, as I have been feeling since arriving as Ambassador last September. In fact, I complete one year in my office on 1 September. Of course, PM Orbán’s visit to India soon after my assumption of change was a challenge for me. We are following up on the visit and with the change of government, wish to discover new facets of cooperation.
There is an informal club in Budapest for ambassadors who speak, or try to speak, Hungarian. Are you a member?
I am not aware of any such club. I have not been able to speak Hungarian so far, though can understand a little. I am striving to learn the language, which is difficult for me.
Agreements between India and Hungary
• Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement
(signed in November, 2003)
• Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (November 2003)
• MoU on IT Cooperation (November 2003)
• Agreement on Defence Cooperation
• Economic Cooperation Agreement (June 2005)
• Cultural Exchange Programme (October 2006).
• Agreement on cooperation in agriculture
• Agreement in science and technology
• Health Cooperation Agreement (January 2008)
• Agreement between ONGC and MOL for joint exploration (January 2008)
• Establishment of a Strategic Fund of
EUR 2 million (January 2008)
• MoU on Social Security Agreement
• MoU between ITDH and FICCI on trade and investment cooperation (February 2010)
• Agreement on arbitration between
FICCI and HCCI (February 2010)
• MoU on cooperation between
HITA and FICCI (October 2013)
• MoU on Traditional Systems of Medicine
Ministry of Health India, Ministry of Human Resources Hungary (October 2013)