INDIA-SPAIN: Distant Apart to Proximity

India and Spain have been sharing friendly diplomatic relations since 1956. Spain started its embassy in the year 1956 at New Delhi and Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur, was appointed in 1965 as the first Ambassador of India to Spain. The two countries are distant apart geographically as well as culturally that help maintain their relations peaceful.Spain has a low population density compared with India and has one of the largest numbers of World Heritage Sites, including beautiful castles, cathedrals and monasteries. It occupies the third place in the global ranking, with 45 sites, although India is not far behind at 6th place, with 35 World Heritage sites recognised by UNESCO.

There are around 40,000 people of Indian origin living in Spain today.The celebration of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards in Madrid in July 2016 was the culmination of a planned effort to convert Indian films into a cultural bridge between India and Spain. This significant milestone in raising Spain’s profile in the mind of the Indian public was developed in part thanks to a cooperation agreement signed with Turespaña, the official organization responsible for promoting Spain as a tourist destination abroad.

The India-Spain Joint Economic Commission (JEC) was set up under the 1972 Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement to push the trade and investment relations, and met ten times. Indian companies regularly participate in fairs at Madrid and Barcelona to promote their products and technology. FITUR 2015, the annual Tourism Fair, was held in Madrid in the month of January and India participated in it. The Council for Leather Exports (CLE) held a BSM in the month of March and footwear and leather goods were the focus of the event. The CPhI Worldwide pharma exhibition held on 13-15 October saw a wide Indian participation.

Spain is India´s 7th largest trading partner in the European Union. With the infrastructure push that is taking place in India in the areas of power, roads, ports, airports, telecom and urban infrastructure, especially as part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and the Make in India campaign, the possibilities for cooperation are immense. India, on the other hand, offers Spain quality options in the fields of IT and services, pharmaceuticals (particularly generics) and the chemicals sector.

There are over 30 Indian companies in Spain, the most significant ones being in the areas of IT (TCS, Tech Mahindra), energy (Avantha) and automobiles (Mahindra) making it a 8000 million euros business. With a total 200 companies, Spain is the 12th largest investor in India with $1.8 billion in FDI, mostly in infrastructure (IsoluxCorsan, Grupo San Jose), renewable energy (Gamesa), auto components (Gestamp), water desalination (Abengoa) and single brand retail (Inditex – Zara/Mango). These companies have subsidiaries, joint ventures, projects or liaison offices and purchase offices in India.

In the first PM-level visit to Spain in three decades in 2017, PM Modi and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy exchange ideas to strengthen strategic partnership amid signing of seven agreements, including on cyber security and transfer of sentenced persons. The then Spanish PM Jose Rodriguez Zapatero paid an official visit to India on July 3, 2006. The last standalone bilateral visit by an Indian PM to Spain was in 1988 by Shri Rajiv Gandhi.

The first ever state visit to Spain by an Indian head of state was paid by President Smt. PratibhaDevisinghPatil from 20-23 April, 2009. The then King, His Majesty King Juan Carlos I, paid a state visit to India from 24-27 October 2012, accompanied by a high level delegation, including the Spanish Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Industry, Energy and Tourism and Infrastructure and Transport. During the visit, agreements/MOUs were signed in the areas of Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion; Defence Cooperation; Road Transport Sector; Audio-Visual Co-production and Railways.

From Spain, the year 2015 has seen a flurry of bilateral visits. From the Indian side, a delegation led by Joint Secretary (Disarmament and International Security Affairs) visited Spain on 21-22 September 2015 for the inaugural Security Policy Dialogue.  Commerce Secretary visited Spain from 11-14 October 2015. The upswing in the frequency of VVIP interactions is demonstrative of the warmth in bilateral relations.

To commemorate 60 years of India-Spain Diplomatic Relations in 2016, the Ministers agreed to formulate a programme of activities for the year to deepen cooperation and foster closer people-to-people ties. Apart from expressing satisfaction at the intensification of bilateral relationship, The Joint Communiqué also agreed to enhance high level interactions. The first Spain-India Think Tanks Meeting and Dialogue on Global, Geoeconomics & DefenceChallenges was held in Madrid in 2015, In addition to a new Forum for Spanish and Indiancivil societies to meet, whose first edition took place in 2014 focusing on sustainable citiesand transport networks.


Cultural exchange is an important component of India-Spain bilateral relations. Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) sponsors visits of cultural troupes for performances in various parts of Spain and offers five scholarships to Spanish students every year to study in India. A quarterly publication titled ‘Hola Namaste’ carrying articles on contemporary events in India is published in Spain.The Spain Film Commission and the Film & Television Producers Guild of India signed a cooperation agreement during the IIFA Weekend in Madrid.A key role in this fusion experiment, and in general for responding to Spain’s interest in India, can be attributed to Casa de la India, an institution founded in 2003 in Valladolid as a platform for the promotion of India and Spain and Indo-Spanish relationships in culture, education, cooperation and business.

Three editions of the biennial Indian music festival in Spain titled India en Concierto have successfully been organized. India was also the ‘guest country’ at the 11th edition of the literature-oriented Hay Festival, held in September 2016 in Segovia with the presence of many Indian writers

The Indian performing arts scene has become increasingly vibrant in Spain. The intelligentsia and artistic circles of India are familiar with the works of modern Spanish artists like Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Gaudí. Many modern Indian artists have been greatly influenced by them as is evident in their art. During the first half of 2015, Indian artists like Dr. Jayanta Kumar Das (RudraVeena), Pt. Sandip Chatterjee (Santoor), Gundecha Brothers (Dhrupad vocal) and Ms Aranyani Bhargav (Bharatanatyam) have performed in various parts of Spain. Three editions of the biennial Indian music festival in Spain titled ‘India en Concierto’ have successfully been organized till date, the most recent one being in June, 2014.

India was the Guest Country in the 2014 edition of the mega Art Restoration and Heritage Management Biennial ‘AR&PA’ organized by the Government of Castillia y León. An India Week was organised in La Laguna de Tenerife by the Council of La Laguna and Harmatan Cultural Services in April, 2015.

Spain witnessed one of the most enthusiastic celebrations of the first International Day of Yoga on June 21, 2015. The Embassy, with the support of the Government of Spain and of the City Council of Madrid, and working jointly with 12 leading institutions in the field of Yoga as well as other aspects of Indian culture, organized a mega Master Class of Yoga attended by over 1200 Yoga enthusiasts in the precincts of the iconic Plaza de Colón. Apart from the lead event in Madrid, Mission was also in touch with proposed celebrations across Spain. As a result, at least 17 cities across the country followed the Common Yoga Protocol designed by the Ministry of AYUSH.

The Alliance of 4 Universities (A-4U) is a partnership of four leading Spanish public universities to promote their international profile. The alliance has signed framework agreements with leading Indian institutes to establish exchange programmes. University of Valladolid has an on-going arrangement with the University of Ahmedabad in the areas of heritage conservation and management. The University has also hosted an ICCR Hindi Chair from 2004 to 2012 wherein a visiting professor taught Hindi at the basic and intermediate levels. Introductory Sanskrit is taught in the Universities of Salamanca, Barcelona, Complutense (Madrid) and Santiago de Compostela. IE University, Madrid has attracted considerable number of Indian students in recent years. AnMoU on setting up of a Hindi Chair at university of Valladolid was signed on 2 October between ICCR and the University of Valladolid.

The Institute of Indology in Madrid is a private initiative of academicians and friends of India in Spain. The institute conducts Summer Courses and the Autumn Courses on India. The Summer Course 2015 was organized in July, 2015 in collaboration with the Embassy. The Spanish Association for Interdisciplinary Indian Studies (AEEII in Spanish) also organizes conferences on India every alternate year at different venues.The tourism potential between India and Spain has not been fully reached and only around 150,000 Indians visited Spain in 2014. The soonto-be-opened direct Air India flight between Madrid and New Delhi will create additional opportunities to increase the flow.

by Mrs. Meenakshi Sharma


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