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India-Jordan ties ‘have grown from strength to strength’ — Indian president

By Abeer Numan - Oct 08,2015 - Last updated at Oct 08,2015

Pranab Mukherjee

AMMAN — India's President Pranab Mukherjee will begin a state visit to Jordan on Saturday during which he will meet with His Majesty King Abdullah and senior Jordanian officials to discuss ways to enhance political and economic cooperation. 

In an e-mailed interview with The Jordan Times this week, President Mukherjee noted that "bilateral ties between the two countries have been close, cordial and warm, encompassing political, trade, economy, defence and culture."

With regard to Indo-Jordanian relations, he said:  "We attach great importance to our friendship with Jordan. This year we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. All these years, our relations have grown from strength to strength covering all fields and will be further upgraded. Trade and economy has been the hallmark of our bilateral relations with India emerging as the fourth largest trading partner for Jordan in 2014." 

"We share similar views and perceptions on regional and international issues, including Syria and the Middle East peace process. We strongly reject religious fundamentalism and extremism as well as terrorism in all forms and manifestations. Given the commonality of security concerns of both the countries, India looks forward to further strengthening cooperation in the area of security and counter-terrorism," he added. 

"Trade and investments are key drivers of this relationship.  Business to business (B2B) collaboration between the business communities of the two countries will be enhanced through the ‘India-Jordan Business Forum’. Similarly, efforts will be made to reach the trade target of $5 billion from the current $2 billion by 2025.”  

“We invite major businesses from Jordan to avail of the immense opportunities that are available in India under the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.” 

“Education and research are two other areas of common interest. My delegation comprises heads of leading Indian universities and institutions who will be signing memoranda of understanding (MoU) for cooperation and collaboration with their Jordanian counterparts,” according to the president. 

Regarding economic and political areas that will be addressed during the visit, he said: “Trade and economic relations constitute the bedrock of our bilateral relations. Our bilateral trade volume reached $2.3 billion in 2013-14 and the Joint Trade and Economic Committee meeting held in March, 2015 has discussed in detail how to provide further impetus to our economic relations, especially in areas such as renewable energy, IT, transport, education, health and pharmaceuticals. On the political side, we have a convergence of views on an array of regional and international issues, including Syria, the Middle East peace process, counter-terrorism and UN reforms.”

India is the largest democracy in the world and Jordan is a model of democracy for the region. Enhancing parliamentary exchanges and cooperation will also benefit our two countries and the world, he added.

In reply to a question on trade exchange, which is now very much tilted in India’s favour, he stated: “Trade is not a zero-sum game.  India is willing to bridge the trade deficit through mutual cooperation. It is true the trade volume has shifted in favour of India since 2013.  But, India remains a major importer of rock phosphates, potash and finished fertilisers. We see Jordan as an important partner. Jordan’s strategic location can help Indian companies target regional markets. We must expand our relations to new sectors of cooperation.  Jordanian businesses must showcase their products in the Indian market by participating in major trade fairs.  We will be happy to assist Jordanian companies in this regard. I believe there exists tremendous potential to further enhance trade between our two countries. There are several agreements and MoUs in various fields which will be signed during my visit to Jordan. These will strengthen the institutional framework for cooperation in specific fields.”

On boosting cooperation in fighting terrorism and radical ideologies, he said: “I am convinced that terrorism is the biggest threat confronting the world. Countries like India and Jordan must cooperate in the fight against terrorism. India condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  We believe terrorism should be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.”

He urged an integrated approach to terror.

“Segmented and partial approaches as adopted by some of the countries have been unsuccessful in countering terrorism. Dealing with global terror requires coordinated international cooperation as well as a strengthened and enforceable international legal regime,” the president said.

Elaborating on his country’s experience in the field, he said: “India has adopted a comprehensive approach to deal with the challenge of terrorism. We have initiated a number of measures to prevent the spread of extremist ideology, plug financing routes, build domestically a counter narrative to radicalisation, strengthen laws to prosecute terrorists and forge a network of international partnerships for threat assessment and operational cooperation. The reality of global expansion of terrorism, including in Syria and Iraq and globalisation of the supply chain of terrorism is a matter of great concern to us. India has faced terrorism for almost four decades, largely sponsored from across our border. We are concerned about the spillover effects of instability in the region resulting in increased terrorist activities across the world, including in South Asia. We have also sought to challenge and repudiate the terrorist narrative that global counter-terrorism efforts are directed against any particular religion or ethnic group.” 

“We are convinced that terrorism can be rolled back only through comprehensive, coordinated international cooperation combined with a strengthened, enforceable international legal regime. The global community needs to agree to a legal framework for diminishing and eventually defeating the scourge of terrorism. India will continue to strive for achieving progress in the finalisation of the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, proposed by us first in 1996. It will be our endeavour to see that our core concerns are addressed during the fifth biennial review of the UN’s Global Counter Terrorism Strategy scheduled in the 70th Session. It is essential to ensure that UN Counter Terrorism Mechanisms function in an objective manner and there is strict compliance by member states with the United Nations Security Council sanctions regime.”

In reply to a question on the repercussions of regional challenges on the Kingdom, especially the question of Syrian refugees, he said: “India is aware of the impact of the Syrian crisis on Jordan’s resources.  We appreciate and commend Jordan, its leadership and its people for their compassion and untiring efforts to mitigate the sufferings of the victims of the ongoing strife in Syria.  In appreciation of the Jordanian government’s efforts and in keeping with our historical, brotherly relations, the government of India has extended cash assistance of $500,000 to the government of Jordan as part of the pledge made at the 3rd Pledging Conference on Syria held in Kuwait in March, 2015. Last year, India also paid $500,000 to the Jordan Response Fund.”

With regard to the stalemate in the Middle East peace process, he said: “In line with our longstanding support to the Palestinian cause, India will continue to support initiatives at the UN for an early realisation of a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine within secured and recognised borders, side by side and at peace with Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as endorsed in the Arab Peace Initiative, Quartet roadmap and relevant UN resolutions. I will be travelling to Palestine and then to Israel. This is the first time ever that an Indian President is visiting Jordan, Palestine and Israel.  It is therefore a historic visit. India has always had strong and close relations with this region. My visit will reinforce these relations.” 

“India remains firm in its commitment towards the Palestinian cause, even as we pursue good relations with the State of Israel. We have called upon both sides to exercise restraint and work towards a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue. Apart from strong political support to the Palestinian cause at international, regional and bilateral levels, we have been providing budgetary, economic and developmental assistance,” Mukherjee told the Jordan Times.

 

On his visit the Indian president will be accompanied by India’s Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot, parliament members representing major political parties in India and an academic delegation which includes heads of India’s leading institutions of higher education and senior officials. 

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