New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Azerbaijan counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in Baku and said that the two countries were committed to strengthening ties in a range of issues including trade and investment, connectivity and transportation, culture and tourism etc. Swaraj, who is on a three-day visit to the country, landed in capital city Baku on Wednesday. This is her first bilateral visit to the country.
Azerbaijan is an important country in the Caucasus region and India’s relationship with it is evolving well.
“India seeks to consolidate and strengthen its friendly relations with Azerbaijan. I conveyed Foreign Minister Mammadyarov, that the Government of India is committed to working closely with the Government of Azerbaijan to build a reliable, strong, vibrant and mutually beneficial partnership,” she said.
Swaraj invited Azerbaijan firms to invest in India. “Today, India has emerged as the fastest-growing large economy in the world. It is a global hub for manufacturing and innovation. Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, India is strongly committed to improving the ease of doing business,” she said.
Bilateral trade between India and Azerbaijan has increased from around $50 million in 2005 to nearly $460 million in 2017. Azerbaijan has invited Indian firms to set up joint ventures in the country for production of pharmaceuticals and medical products.
Both the countries have expressed interest to partner in the field of agriculture, including in cotton and tobacco cultivation.
“We have set into motion many far-reaching changes to build infrastructure, reform the business environment and promote education, skills & economic development. I emphasized in my meetings that in India’s transformational journey, Azerbaijan can be a natural partner. However, we agreed that it is still way below potential, and we need to work together to increase it further,” the release stated.
Azerbaijan has invited Indian companies to set up joint ventures for the production of pharmaceuticals and medical products in Special Economic Zones in Azerbaijan.
On connectivity, the minister stated that that the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), of which both India and Azerbaijan are members, is an important initiative that can reduce time and cost by about 30-40 percent. To popularize INSTC, a motor rally is being organized that would shortly pass through Azerbaijan.
Oil and natural gas continue to dominate the discourse of India-Azerbaijan bilateral relations, but with the passage of time, both sides have identified other potential areas of cooperation.
India’s ONGC-Videsh is a shareholder and investor in the ACG oil fields and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. ONGC Videsh was among the signatories to the Revised and Amended Production Sharing Agreement signed in September 2017 extending contract by 32 years to 2049. After the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline to the Mediterranean port, Indian oil companies have been buying substantive quantities of crude oil.
To enhance people to people contact, both India and Azerbaijan introduced electronic visa system for each other’s nationals last year. Since its introduction in April 2017, more than 500 nationals from Azerbaijan have availed the facility.
Both the countries have also expressed their interest to collaborate in the field of agriculture, including in cotton and tobacco cultivation.