It is not easy to be neutral and the world is getting to a place where you have to take sides, Lithuania’s Vice-Minister of Economy and Innovation Karolis Žemaitis said recently, in an indirect reference to India’s stand on the war in Ukraine.
He said Lithuania can be part of India’s success story but they need predictability in regulations. Lithuania can be the springboard for the Indian industry to enter the larger European market, he said.
“I don’t think this world will be very easy to be neutral. One or another case, I think the world is getting to the place when we will have to choose sides, again. And the question is, can you sit on the fence? Because sometimes the fence becomes the barb wire... We have high hopes for democracy, as India,” Mr. Žemaitis said speaking to The Hindu during his visit to India last week.
From an European perspective, he said, it is important to see the clear path India is going and what it expects from its international partners. “Where can we help? We can be part of your success story as Indian companies can be part of European one,” he stated. In this regard, he said the India-EU free trade agreement has to be concluded.
Lithuania has taken a lead in supply chain resilience and diversification much before the rest of the world woke up to it, after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Nothing that Lithuania has been diversifying its supply chains for some time, Mr. Žemaitis said, “The first impact was in 2014 when Russia started its war in 2014 and also we were sanctioned by Russia. That was a big signal for Lithuanian businesses as well as the government to diversify. That is why we have been investing a lot to diversify to U.S., India-Pacific region, Japan, India, South Korea and all over the place.”
The same goes for investment attraction, he continued, stating that they are very cautious about strategic investments, whether sea ports, airports, data security and they all have to go through a national security commission, which, according to him, is in most cases “just a formality”, unless there are some triggers for the countries who are unfriendly to Lithuania. Stating that Indian is nott one of those countries, he said, “We welcome investments from democratic countries.”
Lithuania has recently signed a landmark agreement with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute for manufacturing semiconductors, and Mr. Žemaitis said in the coming days, they would be looking for partners in production. “India is a natural can be a natural choice. That is one of the areas where we can work together in high tech manufacturing,” he said, noting that it is an area India is also focused on.
India plays a strong political and economic role in this region, the visiting Vice-Minister said, adding they have expectations for India to also stand up for democracy. Lithuania is also expecting that India would be a leader of the region and a leader, economic-wise and political-wise, he observed.
Noting that there are many conflicts in the world, Mr. Žemaitis stressed that any sort of military aggression is not justified and right now, there was “Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine”.
“Aggression against peaceful democratic countries should not be justified by anyone... We have higher expectations for India as a democracy, rather than undemocratic superpowers in the region.”