Interview with H.E. Mr. Ganbold Dambajav, Ambassador of Mongolia to India

“Tourism holds immense potential for bilateral cooperation between Mongolia & India. Mongolia is one of the safest countries in the world to travel with multiple adventures and options available to the visitors from food to sightseeing.”


What are your views on the contemporary relationship between India and Mongolia as well as the shared history between the two countries?

Mongolia-Indian relations go back many thousand years. There are historical evidences proving that morethan 2500 years ago Mongolian monks and scholars studied at the renowned University of Nalanda. This relationship is a significant aspect of our deep historical and spiritual partnership and serves as an inspiration for us to further bolster our ties in the age of such advanced means of communication and transportation. A robust Mongolia-Indian ties are just the continuation of our thousands of years of traditions of our ancestors. As of contemporary history, Mongolia and India established diplomatic relations in 1955 with our fist ambassador stationed in Delhi by 1956. Mongolia-Indian bilateral relations were shadowed by the international geo-politics of the 20th century. Mongolia was then part of the so-called Eastern Block. It had limited contact with the other third world nations like India, having a chequered history of leading the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77 among others. However, in the wake of democratic revival in the 1990s Mongolia and India moved closer, especially under the then Ambassador of India to Mongolia Kushok Bakula Rinpoche. Further, they have progressed to a 100 million USD worth of economic partnership at present with a potential to grow much more.

How do the people of Mongolia celebrate the Naadam Festival? Please shedhistory of this festival.

Naadam Festival is an annual period of festivities marking an important aspect of Mongolia culture. Mongolians are traditionally a nomadic society with immense importance being attached to our livestock. Camels, horses, cows, sheep and goats form a majority of our 75 million livestock population. Due to this large livestock population and a nomadic lifestyle, we see a large-scale movement year around especially during the harsh winters. Therefore, summers are a much looked upon in Mongolia as it brings in a period of festivities and celebration under a relatively warmer weather. Naadam festivities are commemoratedon July 11-15th in the grandest fashion in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and across the nation. During the Naadam Festival the key highlights are the three traditional sports, associated with Mongolia i.e. archery, horse racing and wrestling. These sports celebrate the spirit and culture of nomadic Mongolian society. They are played in a much different manner from the western world. Horse racing is usually long distance unlike in circular loops, for wrestling there are no age or weight limits etc. for the opponents and archery too is a celebration of the hunting and warrior aspect of nomadic life. These sports are not mere recreational, but are attached a very symbolic cultural value right from early childhood in the lives of Mongols.Other than the sports, consumption of dairy products is also an important aspect of Naadam festivities. These include a fermented drink from mare’s milk called “Airag” and other products like dried yogurt and etc.

What are the most promising sectors in the Mongolian economy for Indian investors?

Mongolia-Indian economic co-operation has deepened with the Indian assisted oil refinery currently being built as the fist oil refinery in Mongolia. There exists a plethora of other avenues for the Indian businesses to invest in the Mongolian economy.

Mining is one such area, where Indian investments are welcome as Mongolia is a store-house of valuable minerals like gold, uranium, copper, cooking coal etc.  With the recent push by the Indian Government for producing their own semi-conductors, a close partnership can be developed as Mongolia is blessed with rare earth minerals, needed for semi-conductor production.

Infrastructure is another avenue, where we would like to see more Indian investments. Since Mongolia is a sparsely populated country with majority of the population concentrated within the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, vast tracts of territory still remains not well connected. India has demonstrated a considerable rapid infrastructural development in terms of highways, railways, airports etc. in the last decade. Therefore, it can be a major partner in upgrading infrastructure across Mongolia. Indian companies are welcome to partner with the Mongolian public and private sector alike to transform Mongolian infrastructure.

Agriculture presents another possibility of close co-operation between the two countries. With a large healthy population of livestock meat and dairy products, as well leather and cashmere fine produce from Mongolia can be looked at as areas of co-operation. In the light of ongoing global conflicts, food security has become a global concern. Mongolia-Indian partnership can be developed to further expand agriculture within vast expanses of untapped land in Mongolia. India has been a pioneer in agricultural innovation and technological expertise. This valuable knowledge can be put to use to cultivate corn, millets, wheat etc. by Indian companies and address global food crisis. Moreover, infrastructural and agricultural expertise can be put together to harness Mongolian rivers and divert waters from country’s north towards the agricultural regions of the south. This shall ensure in addressing the issue of desertification that Mongolia is facing on a big scale. Billion Tree Initiative of our President to combat desertification by undertaking a tree plantation drive shall be aided by such partnership, as we are set to learn from Indian practices like bar-coding of tress in New Delhi.

Movie production is another opportunity that Mongolia has to offer. To capitalise on the natural serenity and a pro-active Bollywood industry keen on shooting abroad the Government of Mongolia has announced various incentives for the same. The Government shall reimburse up to 50 percent of all the expenses the movie production company incurs while shooting in Mongolia. The figure runs down to 30 percent if all the shooting is to take place in Mongolia. Plus, 10 percent if the company hires the local crew, local actors and an additional 10 percent if it’s related to our history, heritage or custom. Along with movie production, costume and dress designers can be also very interesting aspect of cooperation blending/fusion both the cultural icons together.

India serves as an attractive destination for Mongolians looking for world-class medical facilities. This has been an outcome of India’s strong medical environment, that has affirmed to possess essential expertise, legal agreements, skill, personnel, infrastructure and financial resources. With this it has served not only the domestic patients, but ones from foreign nations like Mongolia too. The treatment is not only budget friendly for Mongolian patients, but also the best in terms of quality. We hope this expertise becomes a bridge to strengthen the local medical care infrastructure in Mongolia. For this purpose, we are collaborating with some Indian medical institutions to open its’ branch in Mongolia.

Whereas, Mongolia stands to serve as an enchanting tourism spot with its pristine natural offerings criss-crossing the country. In light of the same, the Government of Mongolia has granted clearance to the Hunnu Airlines to operate direct flights between the two countries, along with Air India and Indigo airlines being roped in for the same.

Another area of emerging co-operation is that of education. The countries have a long history of shared knowledge systems and it continues to this day. India offers certain number of scholarship for Mongolian students. Likewise, Mongolia offers numerous incentives, such as scholarships for Indian studentsto delve deeper into Mongolianculture and language. An important recent development has been the adoptionof English as the second official language of Mongolia this year. So, now the Indian education institutions can play a vital role in upgrading English language of the Mongolian students by taking up roles within universities and public schools as English teachers.

Please tell us about the recent ministerial-level visits between Mongolia and India.

The Lok Sabha Speaker Mr. Om Birlapaid an officialvisit to Mongolia this year in July. It was a reciprocal visit of our Speaker to India in December 2021. The visit was deemed to a success as the national legislatures of both the nations a very successful visit, signing two cooperation agreements. In light of the same to implement the agreementsthe Secretary General of the MongolianParliamentwill visit India in December. Taking the defence cooperation ahead a reciprocal bilateral visit was undertaken by the Ministers of Defence of both the countries in 2022. Abilateral consultation was held between the Defense Ministries in New Delhi in 2023. Hence, as a result of our defence cooperation, we’re shall have the first Defense Attache in the Embassy of Mongolia to India soon. Recently we also conducted a consultative meeting between our Foreign Ministries.

We’re expecting the state visit of the President of Mongolia to India with a very open-hearted invite to Prime Minister Modi to visit Mongolia again. His first and historic visit in 2015, was immensely valuable in bolstering our bilateral ties.

Which tourist destinations should be on the list of Indian travellers when in Mongolia?

Tourism holds immense potential for bilateral cooperation between our countries. Natural wonders, such as one of the biggest pure water lakes in Mongolia-Lake Khövsgöl along with the reindeer community shall serve as exceptional experiences for Indian tourist visiting Mongolia. Other interesting places to explore include start gazing within the eastern corner, driving whole day seeing only wild animals, no human beings along with millions of starts and the Milky Way stretching from one horizon to another at night, and Gobi Desert, the White Stupa and the Flaming Cliffs in the South. Indian tourists should definitely venture into the western parts to explore the snow-lofted mountains and a vast expanse of lakes as nature’s best-known secrets.

What are your views on the importance of Mongolia for India’s Act East policy as a strategic partner and ‘spiritual neighbour?

Ever since the 1990s Mongolia has pursued peaceful, open, independent and multi-polar foreign policy with the concept of “Third neighbour”. We see countries like USA, EU, Japan, India, Turkey and UN as our Third Neighbours. India no doubt stands as one of the most important “Third Neighbour” in the region as India’s current policy outlook comes in line with our Third Neighbour policy. Given our shared long spiritual history it gives us the broader opportunity to work together in economic and other emerging areas.

How are the two countries collaborating in the IT sector? What do you see in the future, in the field of technology?

We have a long association in the field of IT sector within increasing number of our students graduating from Indian universities in IT and engineering. They have established successful enterprises upon their return to Mongolia and also in the western countries. India contributed in developing the Centre for Excellence in Information & Communication Technology in Ulaanbaatar in line with its commitment. IT sector represents immense potential for a landlocked nation like Mongolia. Hence, we look forward further co-operation within this field to boost our development and walk along with the world.

India & Mongolia had decided to establish an air corridor to boost bilateral trade. How much of the same have the two countries accomplished?

In the year 2015 an MOU was signed between MIAT, National Flag Carrier of Mongolia and Air India, Indian national carrierto conduct a code-sharing flight. With these now direct flights are available to Mongolia via Hong Kong. However, both Mongolia and India are trying to have a direct flight between the two countries. Indian flyers like Air India and Indigo are being consulted on the same. A direct fight connectivity shall help our people to interact and understand each other directly. I believe this people-to-people relationship shall be very beneficial for mutual bilateral co-operation between the two countries.

Would you like to give any message to our Envoy Excellency readers?

I would like to invite readers of Envoy Excellency to visit Mongolia. Mongolia being an open and friendly country, holds Indian and their culture in high regard. Mongolia is also one of the safest countries in the world to travel with multiple adventures and options available to the visitors from food to sightseeing. We also welcome the Indian business community to Mongolia to joint-venture or invest and grow their businesses there. We can offer you a market up to 70 million population as a strong market in all the diverse fields from hospitality, tourism, mining, medical care, education and many others. So we look forward to more Indians visiting Mongolia in the near future.

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