Greece appreciates India’s consistent position on Cyprus: Ambassador Ioannou

‘The two countries are building the relationship on very solid ground,’ the envoy said on the strategic convergence between India and Greece in security and defence

August 17, 2023 08:35 pm | Updated 08:35 pm IST

Ambassador of Greece Dimitrios Ioannou. File

Ambassador of Greece Dimitrios Ioannou. File

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Athens, Ambassador of Greece to India Dimitrios Ioannou, expressed support for the ‘Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative’. Excerpts from an interview with The Hindu:

What is the Greek position on the conflict in Ukraine, and what does it expect the G20 to deliver on the issue?

As a matter of principle, we condemn the aggression against a sovereign nation and the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. From the very beginning, Greece took a very clear stance in favour of Ukraine. We supported Ukraine, especially in the humanitarian and financial sectors, but also in the field of military assistance.

What might not be so widely known in India is that there is a centuries’ old presence of the Greek diaspora, especially in the southeast of Ukraine, in and around the area of Mariupol. Those communities were forcibly relocated there from Crimea, where they had been based since antiquity. Following the siege of Mariupol in February-May 2022, the persons of Greek origin became refugees or got trapped in occupied territory.

Greece encourages all international initiatives aimed at restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and preventing humanitarian crises. We believe the G20 could play a role there as well, especially regarding the food insecurity issue, which constitutes a serious source of concern for the countries of the Global South.

What is the current shape of trade and commerce between the two countries, and what more can be done to improve commercial ties?

We aspire to be the gateway of India to Europe, including [in] trade and investment. In 2022, the volume of our bilateral trade increased by 58%, reaching a peak of €1,32 billion, which is highest for the last five years. We welcome further Indian strategic investments in ports, airports, logistics, renewables, real estate, information technology, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals, according to the ‘Greece 2.0 Masterplan’.

What are the areas of strategic convergence between India and Greece in security and defence, and what can the two sides do to increase cooperation in these areas?

Our countries have built a very sincere relationship when it comes to security and defence. Both countries are fervent supporters of international law, and especially the international law of the sea (UNCLOS). The Indian Air Force participated for the first time in the multinational exercise ‘Iniochos 23’, which was held in Greece in May. In addition, the Indian Navy’s I.N.S. Chennai was at Souda Bay in Crete last month for joint exercises with the Greek Navy. Greek fighter jets are expected to participate in the Indian ‘Tarang Shakti’ exercise for the first time in September. The Head of the Hellenic Air Force visited India in June, and the College of Defence Management of the Indian Armed Forces visited Greece recently as well. So the perspectives are looking bright, as the two countries are building this relationship on very solid ground, based on mutual trust.

It is being said that the consistent support that Greece has extended to India over the Kashmir issue has the helped bilateral relation.

The equilibrium between States, Union Territories and Centre is the prerogative of the Indian polity. I personally visited Kashmir (Srinagar) a few months ago and I witnessed a safe place, full of tourists even in the low season. Wherever there is tourism, there is prosperity and stability. Talking about consistent support, please allow me to stress how much Greece appreciates India’s long-standing consistent position on the issue of Cyprus.

What is the Greek position on reform of the multilateral system?

Greece supports the early reform of the UN Security Council, including the expansion of the UN Security Council and India’s bid for permanent membership. With India, we share a deep commitment to multilateralism, and a rules-based international order. Hence, we believe in the importance of the reform of multilateral institutions, in order to make them more inclusive, transparent, accountable, and to reflect today’s geopolitical realities. We commend India’s successful participation in the Security Council as a non-permanent member during 2021-22. Let me also stress that Greece has presented its candidacy for a non-permanent seat for the period 2025-26. India’s support for our bid is of paramount importance.

What are the expectations of Greece from the upcoming G20 leaders’ summit?

India’s Presidency of the G20 is a landmark, as your country represents the voice of the Global South. We deeply respect and recognise India’s wise contribution, giving an enhanced perspective of togetherness, selflessness and interdependence in solving the world’s problems, which has already left an indelible mark. We are certain that India will again do everything for this spirit to prevail at the upcoming G20 leaders’ summit, as it has consistently done throughout its G20 Presidency.

As a seafaring nation, what is the Greek position about the Indo-Pacific region and the Chinese activities in the South China Sea?

It is true that Greece and India are maritime nations. We see many things in a very similar way: the International Law, sovereignty, human rights, prohibition of use of force and our shared commitment to International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We certainly support the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. We welcome India’s ‘Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative’ (IPOI). Greece can work together with India in its quest for a prosperous, peaceful and rules-based Indo-Pacific.

Taking into account, of course, that Greece is the country with the largest merchant fleet in the world, and of course, a true supporter of the rules-based order of the sea and the freedom of navigation, we strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion that increase tensions and undermine regional stability and international order based on the rule of law anywhere in the world, including in the eastern Mediterranean, and the East and South China Seas.

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