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Cyprus President is coming to India, with a Gandhi and a lot more to offer

Gandhi is revered in Cyprus and the painting reflects the relationship India has had with the European nation for decades

Cyprus, Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi, President Pranab Mukherjee, India, Indo-Cyprus Ties, Indian Express, Indian Express News The portait by Georgiou

The Rashtrapati Bhawan will soon have another Mahatma Gandhi portrait, this one by acclaimed artist George Georgiou. The work of art will be gifted to President Pranab Mukherjee by Nicos Anastasiades, the President of the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, who begins a four-day tour to India on April 25 with ministers and trade delegates.

Gandhi is revered in Cyprus and the painting reflects the relationship India has had with the European nation for several decades now. The two countries share a British colonial past and have subsequently enjoyed good diplomatic ties. India supported Cyprus in its struggle for independence, which the latter got in 1960, and has continued to vote at the United Nations for a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus dispute since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

“We have such strong bonds and ties. We are looking at how we can enhance and further this relationship to the best interests of both countries. Since the Cyprus question (Turkish occupation) has been around, they (India) have taken a principled stand… we are grateful to them. We have excellent relations, not only at the international forum, but also in other fields,” Anastasiades said to an Indian media contingent in Cyprus.

The Indian military has participated in the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, with three Indian generals having served as commanders of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) since 1964. A road in the city of Larnaca is named after General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya who died while serving as the UNFICYP Force Commander in 1965. The Government of Cyprus even issued a stamp the next year commemorating him. Cyprus also supports India within the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

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Since 1972, a bust of Mahatma Gandhi has graced a park near the Cyprus House of Representatives (Parliament) in the capital city of Nicosia, and the avenue is named after Jawaharlal Nehru. Also, the street on which the High Commission of India is located in Nicosia is named after Indira Gandhi. In New Delhi, on the other hand, an avenue is named after Archbishop Makarios III, the first President of the Republic of Cyprus.

The impending visit of the delegation led by President Anastasiades seeks to further this diplomatic relationship, as well as bilateral trade ties, as they plan to collaborate in fields such as information technology, shipping, tourism, healthcare, and even space. The Cyprus government is looking to accommodating more Indian restaurants, and also wants the picturesque locales of the country to be exploited by Bollywood. Anastasiades is likely to visit a film studio in Mumbai on April 25.

Though many of the island’s best beaches and towns of historical importance are now under Turkish operation on the other side of the Green Line, tourism is still the mainstay of Cyprus economy. Legend has it that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and fertility, was born from the waves on the site off the coast of Cyprus. Marketing this fact, Cyprus wants to become a sought-after venue for destination weddings too.

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Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Cyprus was also prepared to welcome students from India. But only “true students”, he sought to underline. According to Kasoulides, there are many people from India and other countries who come as “economic immigrants”, and get married to women from European countries so that they get European passports. Citing “terrible problems” faced in such cases, the minister categorically said, “This has to stop.”

“But true students are most welcome. And we would also like to see Cypriot students studying in India,” he added.

According to official figures, there are currently 5,500 Indians in Cyprus, which is evolving a social security system for them. Most of the Indians working here, nearly 2,000 of them, are categorised as “domestic workers”, while over 600 are under the category of “general employment”, mostly in the shipping industry. Cyprus is the second largest shipping management centre in Europe and 11th largest in the world.

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With the renegotiated double taxation avoidance treaty in place, and Cyprus having considerably recovered from the Greek economic crisis, New Delhi and Nicosia now expect better bilateral trade ties. “The main objective (behind the amended tax treaty) is to ensure there is a level-playing field (now)… and our aim is to have mutually agreeable agreements,” said Minister of Finance Harris Georgiades.

India had specified Cyprus as a ‘notified jurisdictional area’ in 2013 for not sharing tax information. It was removed from the list in 2016 when the bilateral tax treaty was revised. As per the treaty, India can levy capital gains tax on sale of shares on investments made after April 1, 2017, bringing Cyprus at par with Mauritius and Singapore in terms of tax treatment. The Central Board of Direct Taxes said last week Cyprus would be excluded from the list of ‘notified jurisdictional area’ with effect from November 1, 2013.

Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar was in Cyprus earlier this year to review the relations in all fields, and a Make in India event is scheduled to be held in the coastal tourist hub of Limassol in May. Indian High Commissioner to Cyprus Ravi Bangar and his Cyprus counterpart Demetrios A. Theophylactou also foresee better bilateral and diplomatic future ties. Bangar said there was big scope for the Indian health industry, besides the services sector, in Cyprus.

“We need to actively pursue the agreement we have with Cyprus in the area of public health (signed in 2002). If we look at the diseases profile of India and Cyprus, they match quite a lot. So, there can be exchange of experiences, experts and information in those areas,” he said. Bangar said the Cyprus health minister would be visiting India in early June.

The writer was in Cyprus at the invitation of the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus.

First published on: 24-04-2017 at 12:56:12 am
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