NATIONAL

India is a model for our present age: Hungarian PM

Peter Medgyessy

Peter Medgyessy  

ON THE eve of his official visit to India, the Hungarian Prime Minister gave an interview to Amar Kumar Sinha, an Indian journalist based in Budapest, exclusively for The Hindu. Peter Medgyessy covered a vast number of issues from Hungarian-Indian ties through global topics to domestic issues. Excerpts:

Amar Kumar Sinha: Hungary occupies an important place in Europe and enjoys great respect all over the world by dint of its achievements in various domains. For example, probably it tops the world list in "per capita Nobel Prize" winners. As a member of the European Union from May 2004, what will be its input in shaping the E.U.'s common foreign and security policy?

Peter Medgyessy: Hungary would like to see a Union capable of playing a role in the resolution of global problems. This requires the formulation of an effective foreign and security policy. Hungary wishes to contribute to the establishment of a common foreign policy through diplomatic, economic and cultural means, as well as by deploying Hungarian peacekeepers, police officers and medical staff, whose work has won international recognition.

We remain committed to a consolidation of transatlantic relations. We therefore consistently adhere to the principle of "more Europe but not less America". A fundamental tenet of the Hungarian foreign policy is that the relationship between the NATO and the E.U. should be characterised by co-operation towards achieving shared objectives.

In the above context, what is going to be Hungary's attitude vis-�-vis Asia, especially India?

Our Euro-Atlantic ties do not represent a form of exclusivity or reflect a desire to ignore other regions of the world. On the contrary, we strive in our economic relations for multiple links and diversification. Thus, we are devoting particular attention to a rapidly developing Asia and especially to India. Preserving and building upon our traditional co-operation, we are committed to the comprehensive and long-term development of relations with India and our E.U. membership presents new opportunities as we become involved in the strategic co-operation between the E.U. and India. An important aim of my visit is to ensure that following May 2004, Hungarian-Indian bilateral relations become a co-ordinated part of the intricate and rapidly developing forms of co-operation between the E.U. and India.

We are aware of your personal affinity to India and this is reflected in a way also by the planned duration of your official visit. How do you vision the future Hungarian-Indian relations?

I am profoundly moved to step once again on India's ancient soil, which has contributed inestimable value to the development of universal culture and civilisation.

Nurtured by moral teachings, wisdom and a rich culture stretching back thousands of years, in many respects, India is a model for our present age. She demonstrates the great significance — to the success of a country — of freedom, democracy and the co-existence of diverse religious and ethnic communities based on equal rights and status. Your country has achieved for itself a place amongst the world's major industrial powers, its agriculture is self-sufficient and its achievements in the scientific and cultural fields are outstanding.

We wish to continue the exchange of experiences in the field of economic transition and reform. It is imperative to expand our academic, scientific and cultural ties building upon the considerable results of earlier years.

What contribution can the prime ministerial visit make to the expansion of trade, tourism, and cultural ties between the two countries?

Amongst the developing countries, in the 1970s and 1980s, India was one of our most important markets. In recent years, however, trade volume has subsided.

In a way, my visit is an expression of intent concerning our commitment to reinvigorate Hungarian-Indian economic relations. I am confident that our companies will be able to cooperate even more successfully under democracy and the market economy and that this will be demonstrated both in the traditional areas as well as in new fields such as the ICT sector, electronics, software, biotechnology, and cooperation in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and vehicles.

My optimistic expectations are supported by concrete facts:

— At government level, important progress has been made on broadening the institutional framework. Several agreements are planned to be signed, for example, on the [avoidance of] double taxation, investment protection, an agreement between the two export-import banks on reciprocal credit to increase trade, and the accord between the two informatics Ministries.

— Various indicators suggest a rapid growth in the interest and activity of companies on both sides. After an interruption of seven years, this year the intergovernmental joint economic committee reconvened in Budapest and was attended by many Indian and Hungarian businessmen, who identified mutually-beneficial fields of co-operation.

We must recognise that our economic relations cannot be reinvigorated without the active involvement of the business sector. Several initiatives have commenced in this area. For instance, Hungarian and Indian companies wish to establish a "CEO Forum" to facilitate the direct exchange of information amongst them.

Perhaps most important: both countries have an interest in revitalising their co-operation witnessed earlier. Such co-operation [has a better atmosphere] now, being between a democratic Hungary with a market economy and forthcoming E.U. membership and an India that is not only the world's largest democracy but also one of the largest and most dynamic economies.

Regarding tourism, we would be pleased to welcome more Indian guests to Hungarian regions and to our spas, which have been so highly acclaimed by Rabindranath Tagore.

When mentioning our cultural relations, I wish to underline the work of the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Delhi. During my visit, a cultural and educational working plan is to be signed to help boost our cultural relations.

Our countries have a similar stand on the global war against terrorism. What does Hungary think of cross-border terrorism that has afflicted India for a long time?

Hungary condemns all forms of terrorism. We consider international co-operation and the common efforts of the international community to be one of the most important assurances of success in the war against terrorism.

Hungary changed to a democratic system in 1990. Democracy implies, among other things, freedom of speech for everybody. However, the Hungary-watchers are witnessing a strange phenomenon: Often leading politicians are prevented from delivering their speeches by whistles and shouts from unruly elements. Mr. Prime Minister, you personally have taken these rather undemocratic manifestations with exemplary patience. Will Hungary be seeing more of `chaotic' democracy?

By its forthcoming accession to the E.U., Hungary has indeed secured for itself an historical opportunity, which must be used. This, however, cannot be done through rancour or by throwing things, but only through work and unity. Practising politics through scandalous behaviour is always easier and more exciting than co-operative work. A great majority of citizens in Hungary have recognised this...Though sad, the significance of the disruption of a celebration, wreath laying or speech should not be overemphasised. These are merely the voices of a loud minority, in contrast to the majority constituted by the modern European Hungarians who seek dialogue, co-operation and joint celebration. The future belongs to this majority.

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