ndia seeks to Invest in Pharma Sector in Belarus: AIMS to Provide 50% of Domestic Production Pushes for Long term Agreement for Potash Fertilizer from Belarus Jyotiraditya M. Scindia heads Indian Delegation at Fifth India-Belarus IGC at Minsk
Date : 01 Feb 2012
Location : New Delhi
The Fifth Session of the India-Belarus Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) for Economic, Trade, Industrial, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation was held in Minsk on 31 January, 2012. The Indian delegation was led by Mr. Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, Minister of State Commerce & Industry. The Belarusian delegation was led by Mr. Dmitry S. Katerinich Minister of Industry, Republic of Belarus.
After the IGC meeting, the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry called on the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus, Mr. Mikhail V. Myasnikovich on January 31, 2012 and they discussed the overall bilateral relations. Both leaders felt that the current economic engagement does not justify the potential that exists between the two countries. Similarly, there is also a need to increase awareness about the investment opportunities in the two countries so as to encourage innovation and investments flows.
In his opening statement PM Belarus said that Belarus attaches quite a significant importance to bilateral, and especially economic relationship with India, “We have already achieved a level of engagement that allows us to upgrade our relationship in trade and investment.” Belarus will carefully consider the agreements reached in the Protocol of IBIGC. He expressed concern about the decline in trade in 2009 but hoped that both sides will be able to secure further growth. He said that Belarus was of the opinion that full potential has not been realized and hoped that within a year or two, there will be increase both in trade and investment. He said that he had come to the meeting with this sentiment and requested MoS to deliver his message to the Indian Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues.
MoS Mr. Scindia said that trade relationship was only the beginning. It should expand from trade to investment and from investment to innovation. He outlined five building blocks for concerted effort:
1. Pharmaceuticals: India has world renowned capacity in producing low cost, high quality bulk and generic drugs. Supply of such drugs and investment in producing pharmaceutical products in Belarus through JV by Indian companies will provide win-win situation for both countries. Presently $700 million is the size of pharma market in Belarus and about 70% of the total requirement of Belarus is imported. Thus it will also help fulfill Belarus` target of domestic production of 50 percent of all drugs required.
2. Fertilizers: It is currently the main item of export from Belarus to India. India has shown interest in a long term agreement to secure supply of potash fertilizer from Belarus. That is why his delegation includes a senior officer from the Indian Department of Fertilizer. India is interested in setting up a joint venture in Belarus for production of Potash fertilizer.
3. IT Technology: India has made a lot of progress in expanding e-governance to facilitate the quality of life of common people and has gained valuable experience which could be used by the Government of Belarus on Government-to-Government level interaction. A Digital Learning Centre, set up with Indian assistance by the Indian company CDAC has been inaugurated just this month. They have discussed some new projects also to further cooperation in this direction.
4. Power: Indian company BHEL has taken part in the Grodna power project by supplying equipments. They have also expressed interest in other similar power projects such as Belenergo power project in Belarus. India can also offer expertise in renovation of existing power plants. Cooperation is possible, not only in the thermal power projects but also in diversification to solar and wind energy projects which are also green technologies. India has launched National Solar Mission envisaging generation of 10 GW solar power by the year 2020. Indian companies have expertise and can play substantive role in solar as well as wind power generation in Belarus..
5. Agriculture: Lot of agro products are going out of Belarus to be packaged and sent back for sale at much higher price. It will be useful to set up food-processing units in Belarus and it is another area where Indian companies have expertise and capability to invest.
MoS Mr. Scindia then spoke of cooperation at multilateral fora and said that Belarus can push for faster negotiation on Comprehensive Economic Agreement (CECA) with Russia. In view of the Customs Union, Belarus can play an important role in expediting finalization of CECA. This will become yet another building block in our bilateral relations.
PM Belarus Mr. Mikhail V. Myasnikovich said that Belarus was happy with the success that India had demonstrated in economic progress and he believed that India and Belarus have good potential for working together. He said that Belarus was satisfied with the level of political contact. Then he drew attention to working at the highest level and said that Belarus will be glad to receive the President of India. He would also be happy to see the Prime Minister of India in Belarus.
The meeting indicated keen desire on part of Belarus Government to have Indian investment in Pharmaceutical sector, their concern about non-market economy status to Belarus, desire to move ahead in negotiations on the potash fertilizers and their admiration to India`s growth in IT sector. Though Belarus has come out of their immediate cash-crunch situation, they still value engagement with a prominent economic power house like India. If India chooses to take Belarus as one of the countries where focused approach needs to be taken in the next 4-5 years, it is sure to bear results.
During the IGC, both sides expressed their satisfaction that considerable substance and contents had been added to bilateral relations during the last 5 years and reiterated their mutual desire and commitment to further strengthen the existing trade and investment relations and all-round bilateral cooperation. The deliberations at the IGC meeting provided an excellent opportunity to review the current state of ongoing cooperation in diverse fields such as Trade and Investment, Pharmaceuticals, Fertilizers, Information and Communication Technology, Tourism, Science & Technology, Power & Energy, Heavy Machinery, etc. The two sides also identified Agri-Processing, Education and Cooperation between research institutes as other areas where potential for cooperation exists. There is a need to expand the trade basket and set a target of US $ 1 billion by 2015-16. It was also agreed to expedite the finalization of other bilateral agreements currently under discussion. The IGC also decided to take the following steps to improve and expand our economic relations:
(i) A Joint Working Group on Trade and Investment would be set up to consider and resolve trade and investment issues and suggest remedial measures.
(ii) Belarus will participate in India International Trade Fair, 2012 and India would like them to participate as a Partner country.
(iii) Belarus was also invited to participate in India Engineering and Technology Fair in February` 2013 to showcase its strength in machinery sector.
(iv) Belarus was invited to join the "India Show" in Ukraine in 2012 t.
MoS (C&I) also met Mr Mr Sergei F. Aleinik, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. The two leaders exchanged views on issues for promotion of economic relations between the two countries. They also appreciated the good understanding between the two countries on large number of issues of regional and international importance and noted that India and Belarus have been closely cooperating at the international fora.
Belarus is strategically geo-located between European Union on one side and the Russia on another thus making it an important springboard for trade and investment with both the regions.