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Coronavirus has shown us that there are new ways of improving ties between India and Spain

The coronavirus has shown us that there are new ways of improving our political, economic and cultural ties that we have to take advantage of in order to build a stronger relationship.

Written by José Ramón Barañano |
Updated: October 17, 2020 9:37:46 am
india spain, india spain relations, prime minister narendra modi, pm modi, King Felipe VI, Mariano Rajoy, covid 19, spain coronavirus cases, indian express opinionIn this photo from 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Spain's King Felipe VI at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, Spain. (AP/File)

There is no greater honour for a diplomat than to celebrate his National Day in the country he is serving, especially when you have been given the privilege of representing your nation in India. For an ambassador, the National Day is a perfect occasion to underline the state of relations between the countries, and to think about what has been done so far and what can be improved in the future.

This year, our National Day, October 12, took place in trying circumstances caused by the pandemic. The whole world is facing a great political, economic, social and humanitarian challenge. I would like to pay tribute to the victims of the coronavirus and acknowledge the bravery and strength shown by all the sanitary professionals around the world, who have worked day and night to protect us.

October 12 reminds us that Spain belongs to a great community comprising more than 500 million people who share a common language and history, strong economic ties and even family linkage. These common features between Spain and the Ibero-American countries led to the creation of the Ibero-American Summit in 1991. Today this body includes 22 European and American Spanish-and-Portuguese-speaking countries, whose leaders meet every two years to discuss issues of international agenda, focusing on social cohesion, education and culture.

Our diplomatic relations with India started in 1956, but we have developed a deeper relationship more recently. Both countries have strengthened their friendship with an intense institutional agenda at the highest level. Just a few days after my arrival in India in 2017, His Majesty King Felipe VI and the former President of the Government of Spain Mariano Rajoy received Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his official visit. Prime Minister Modi and the President of the Government of Spain Pedro Sánchez also held talks on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina in December 2018, and both leaders discussed the situation caused by the current pandemic during a telephone conversation in April. More recently, during the sixth round of the India-Spain Consultation Mechanism in July, the Secretary-West of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs met virtually to discuss the relations between our countries and the different areas where cooperation could be enhanced. Spain is committed to strengthening Indo-Spanish relations at the highest levels and in different areas.

In the educational field, the launching of the Delhi-based Instituto Cervantes in 2007 marked a turning point for Indians interested in learning Spanish. This official institution, dedicated to promoting our language and culture has allowed thousands of Indians to learn Spanish every year, becoming one of the most important centres in the world. In addition to that, several MoUs signed between Indian Universities and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID), have helped introduce the learning of Spanish into the Indian academic system, thus strengthening the educational cooperation between our countries. In this respect, these exchange programmes should continue to expand in order to improve our mutual understanding and our citizens´ professional possibilities. The Spanish language gives access to a market that spans 20 million square kilometres and reaches more than 500 million people.

Allow me to go back to 2016, as that year marked a turning point in our cultural relations, when Madrid held the IIFA awards. The eyes of millions of Indian citizens were staring at the capital of Spain, proving the great potential of cultural cooperation between the two countries. This event took place five years after the production of blockbuster Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara — a film that introduced Spain into every Indian home. These are only two examples of the great impact that Spain and India can have in each other’s countries.

In the economic field, before the pandemic, exchanges between India and Spain were improving, but still have not reached their real potential. Economic flows significantly increased at the beginning of the century and will continue to do so if we manage to deal efficiently in the post-pandemic scenario. Spanish companies can offer great expertise acquired throughout the world over the last decades. To give only two examples — in the infrastructure field, Spain has many renowned companies that have contributed to developing ports, airports, roads and other facilities all over the planet, and in the field of alternative energy, Spain has built strong capabilities that represent another key sector with clear economic and commercial potential.

Next year, India and Spain will celebrate 65 years of diplomatic relations. I will not be here to celebrate it with my Indian friends as my tenure in India is coming to an end. I am sure that India and Spain will fully recover from this pandemic and resume all necessary contacts to maintain and reinforce our partnership. The coronavirus has shown us that there are new ways of improving our political, economic and cultural ties that we have to take advantage of in order to build a stronger relationship.

During the last three years, I have worked closely with my colleagues from India and other embassies. I am very thankful to all of you. It has been a great honour to serve as the Ambassador of Spain in India and end my diplomatic career in this incredible country.

This article first appeared in the print edition on October 17 under the title “Finding common ground”. The writer is ambassador of Spain to India.

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