Interview with H.E. Mr. Sandeep Kumar, Ambassador of India to Ireland

“India and Ireland sharing a common bond and destiny”

India and Ireland are connected strongly on the grounds of history, culture, education, how do you see the bond between these two countries?

India and Ireland share strong historical bonds, rooted in our freedom struggle movements. Strong links were forged between our national leaders and luminaries like Jawaharlal Nehru, Eamon De Valera, Subhash Chandra Bose, Vithalbhai Patel, Sister Nivedita, James Cousins, Annie Besant, etc. A significant number of Irishmen joined the British Civil Service as well as colonial army regiments in India.  Irish missionaries and educationists contributed to the growth of education in India. The Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution are drawn from the Irish Constitution.  Even the colours of our two national flags are the same.  Nobel laureates Rabindranath Tagore and W.B. Yeats inspired each other. India was the first country in Asia with which Ireland established formal diplomatic links in 1947, reflective of the importance it attached to India. India opened its Embassy in Dublin in 1951. Today, the bond remains strong but needs to be sustained by strong economic content.

How India and Ireland are leading their relationship, and what are your future plans to strengthen the ties?

Both India and Ireland are committed to advancement of the relationship in a tangential manner, with innovative and ‘out of box’ mechanisms. Economic diplomacy is the key. The Embassy is working with all stakeholders – public, private and civil society – to nurture our commercial partnership by way of enhanced trade, business and technology exchanges.  The Irish industry is being encouraged to participate in our flag-ship programmes like ‘Make in India’, Smart Cities, Skill India, Digital India and Clean India as they have complementarities in sectors like agriculture (feeding technology for mulch animals to augment milk production); aviation (aircraft leasing, airport management); tourism (low cost carriers) and infrastructure (smart buildings). On their part, the Irish government has invited the Indian industry to take advantage of Ireland’s unique positioning post-Brexit, being English speaking, having common law system, high skilled force, low corporate tax and pro-enterprise government policy. It can also be a good link with EU, UK as well as trans-Atlantic US. Additionally, we are strengthening ties in cultural, academic and science and technology sectors, at all levels.  This will contribute to the socio-economic development of both our countries.

What do you think about Indian diaspora in Ireland? What kind of similarities do you notice between the nations as they are connected since pre-independence era?

I greatly value the Indian community in Ireland which is around 40,000 strong.  They are the bridge that connects our two countries and cultures.  They are our best Ambassadors in Ireland.  The community is regarded as being disciplined, hard-working, well-integrated and contributing to the socio-economic advancement and cultural diversity of Ireland. Most of them are in the ICT, health, financial services and management sectors. In 2018, the community constituted the largest group among foreign workers to have received Irish employment permits.  Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar himself, is of Indian origin (father is Indian). The Embassy looks forward to working with all Indian communities, in a unified way, for the best projection of our economic and cultural strengths vis-a-vis the Irish Govt. and the Irish people.  We take pride in our slogan – Unity in Diversity.

India and Ireland share 70 years of diplomatic relations, and how do you see this diplomatic relations different in comparison to other diplomatic partners of India?

India has developed distinct relationships with its various diplomatic partners based on bilateral complementarities. With Ireland, the strength of our relationship is derived from our historical connections, the contemporary mutual interests at the national, regional and multilateral fora, as well as our shared cultural value systems.

Which are the pivotal universities and eminent subjects being prevalent in Ireland and also famous among Indian students?

Ireland has first rate higher education system. The prominent universities of Ireland include Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin Business School, National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, University College Cork (UCC), etc.  They have an active recruitment drive in India.  Currently, there are around 4,600 Indian students studying in Irish higher education institutions. The most popular subjects are data science, management, electrical engineering, ICT, MBA and medicine.

Ireland is such a heavenly place when it comes to beauty, what the major tourism opportunities for India?

The “Emerald Isle” has been attracting increasing number of tourists from around the world, including India.  The most popular sites are Cliff of Moher, Ring of Kerry, Aran Island, the magnificent castles, lighthouses, golf courses and stud farms. The picturesque Ballynahinch Castle in Galway County was owned by Maharaja Ranjisinhji (of Ranji Trophy fame) in the 1920s and has now been converted into a high-end hotel. Similarly, there are increasing number of Irish people visiting India for eco, medical, adventure, heritage and spiritual tourism. The operationalisation of direct flights between the two countries, which is being worked upon, will provide a boost to touristic exchanges.

Many high-level visits have taken place between both the countries, how beneficial are these to strengthen the ties?

From the Irish side, there have been three Presidential visits to India, that of Mary Robinson in 1993, Patrick Hillery in 1978 and Eamon de Valera in 1948. Prime Minister Bertie Ahern visited in 2006 and PM Garret FitzGerald in 1984. From the Indian side, there have been two Presidential visits to Ireland, that of Shri N. Sanjiva Reddy in 1982 and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan in 1964. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Dublin in 2015. Before that, Pdt. Jawaharlal Nehru visited Ireland twice in 1956 and 1949.

The high level visits have the potential, with the right kind of implementation, of boosting the relationship to a higher level, particularly in the sectors of business, academic and science & technology. It is important to include top level business leaders and academics in such visits.

How the bilateral trade and investment between the two countries is growing and what are the new aspects that are developing among us?

Bilateral trade in goods between India and Ireland in 2018 touched around US$ 900 million.  India’s exports to Ireland were US$ 560 million imports were US$ 327 million. Main items imported from India were machinery and mechanical appliances, telecommunications equipment, computer accessories, precision equipment and pharmaceuticals. Main items exported from India were organic chemicals, textiles, garments & clothing accessories, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, machinery, light engineering goods, plastics and rubber.  The opening of the Irish Consulate General in Mumbai earlier this year is expected to trigger the trade volumes. Trade in services between India and Ireland has emerged as a major facet in our economic relations.  The total trade in services for 2017-18 was  US$ 3.7 billion, of which exports to India were US$ 2.97 billion and imports US$ 0.798 billion.

There are around 60 Irish companies in India and corresponding number of Indian companies in Ireland. The Irish companies include CRH, Quinn Property Group, PM Group, Aer Rianta, Globofos, Taxback Group, Connolly Red Mills, Globoforce, Keventer, ICON, Kerry Group, Diageo and Glanbia. The major Indian companies in Ireland include Pinewood/Wockhardt, Reliance Genemedix, Crompton Greaves, Deepak Fasteners, Jain Irrigation Systems, Wipro, TCS, Infosys, Shapoorji Pallonji, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, HCL, NIIT, Tech Mahindra, Mind Tree and Zomato.  They are providing employment and contributing to socio-economic development at the regional level. Some companies have established their EMEA HQs in Ireland, Centres for European supply chain logistics, manufacturing, warehousing, delivery and customer service and business development.

The priority sectors of India’s interest in Ireland include three Ts, i.e. (information technology, bio-technology and medical technology), agriculture and related technologies, aviation (automation of airport terminals), business services, consumer and industrial products, e-entertainment and digital media as well as financial services. New aspects in our business relationship will be to leverage advances in Fintech and BPO.

Your message to the readers of Envoy Excellency?

We are highly committed to advancing our mutl-sectoral relationship at all levels and we invite all stakeholders – private sector, civil society, NGOs – to be our credible partners in this effort. May both Ireland and India grow from strength to strength. Both sharing a common bond and destiny.

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