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- Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in the Greek capital, Athens, for a one-day visit, marking the first visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Greece in 40 years.
Key aspects of the visit:
- The visit is expected to pave the way for increased economic collaboration between the two nations.
- Both countries are likely to explore avenues for trade diversification and mutual investments, with an emphasis on sectors such as technology, tourism, renewable energy, and maritime cooperation.
- India and Greece share a rich historical and cultural heritage. The two leaders are expected to discuss initiatives to promote cultural exchanges, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures.
- The visit could lead to closer cooperation on regional and global issues. Given their respective geopolitical positions, India and Greece might explore opportunities for collaboration in areas such as counterterrorism, maritime security, and regional stability.
- The Indian diaspora in Greece is a significant bridge between the two countries. The leaders are likely to discuss measures to strengthen the bond with the diaspora community and promote their contributions to both nations.
- The tourism sector is another area of potential growth. Greece is a popular destination for Indian tourists, and efforts to streamline travel and promote tourism could yield mutual benefits.
The visit underscores Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to fostering stronger global relationships and leveraging diplomatic ties for mutual progress. The significance of this trip lies in its potential to rejuvenate the Indo-Greek partnership and establish a roadmap for collaborative growth in the years to come.
- India’s contact with Greece began over 2500 years ago.
- The advent of Greeks in India dates back from 6th century (BC) to 5th century (AD) as an outcome of Greek expedition towards Persia.
- The Greeks referred to the ancient Indians as "Indói" ('people of the Indus River'); the Indians referred to the Greeks as "Yonas (Yavanas)" in reference to the Ionians.
- Cyrus the Great (558-530 BCE) built the first universal empire, stretching from Greece to the Indus River. This was the famous Achaemenid Dynasty of Persia.
- By about 380 BC the Persian hold on Indian regions slackened and many small local kingdoms arose.
- In 326 BC, Alexander’s expedition led him to the North-Western part of the Indian subcontinent as far as the Hyphasis (Beas River), where he fought with Raja Puru, King of Pauravaa - between the Jhelum and Chenab), and Ambhi who ruled at Taxila.
- The Mauryan dynasty was contemporary to Alexander.
- Trading between the Mauryan Kings and Greece is evidenced by coinage and writings.
- Menander (Milinda), originally a general of Demetrius, is probably the most successful Indo-Greek king, and the conqueror of the vastest territory.
The Greek and Classical Indian Literature
- The Classical Indian literature comprising Yuga Purana, Mahabharata, and Buddhist literature provides historical narrations of Indo-Greek interaction in ancient times.
- The information through these accounts suggests that Greeks were called “Yavanas” by the indigenous people.
- These accounts are also mentioned in an Astrology book named “Gargi Samhita”.
- Pāṇini, an ancient Sanskrit grammarian, was acquainted with the word yavana in his composition.
- Malavikagnimitra, a play written by Kalidasa expresses the Greeks military actions in north central India.
- King Menander, a successor of the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius, conquered large parts of northern India and features in a major Buddhist text, the Milindapanha (Questions of Milinda). A philosophical dispute about Buddhism, between Milinda and the Buddhist sage Nagasena, comprises the bulk of the text.
Greek Influences on Indian Sculpture
- The Greek artistic approaches largely influenced Indian art by the Buddhist tradition and persisted into the later Gupta period. The Greeks are very famous for their innovative and anthropomorphic representation of the Buddha in Indian sculpture.
- The Gandhara School of Buddhist art hence grown up under the great influence of the Greeks.
- The Greek initiation of sculpting the Buddha in human form matured and it became a major part of the Buddhist iconography. The Greeks also introduced their own architectural and sculptural forms, like cupids, friezes and Corinthian columns into the Buddhist school.
- Several Greek mythological figures were incorporated into Buddhist architectural works, including Heracles, who became equated to Vajrapani. The Greek skills and techniques were endured till the epoch of Gupta.
- Gupta’s realistic anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha reflect the legacy of the Greek artistic influence.
Travellers and Explorers
- The Greek ethnographer and explorer of the Hellenistic period, Megasthenes was the ambassador of Seleucus I at India. In his work, Indika (Greek: Ινδικά), he wrote the history of Indians and their culture. Megasthenes also mentioned the prehistoric arrival of God Dionysus and Herakles (Megasthenes' Herakles) in India.
- Deimachus, who was an ambassador to the court of the Bindusara, also wrote about India.
- Patrocles was an admiral of Seleucus who sailed upon the Indian Ocean, and left an account.
- Dimitrios Galanos was the first modern Greek Indologist who lived for 40 years in India and translated many Sanskrit texts into Greek making available the knowledge of the philosophical and literary traditions of India in Greece and the rest of the world.
- Bilateral Interaction since Independence Diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in May 1950.
- Greece opened its Embassy in Delhi in 1950 and India in Athens in 1978.
- The relationship has progressed smoothly over the last 70 years.
- Greece participated in the Six-Nation Delhi Declaration of 1985 on Nuclear Disarmament.
- Following India’s nuclear tests in May 1998, when most Western countries were contemplating sanctions against India, the Greek 2 Defence Minister visited India in December 1998 (first Defence Minister from a NATO country to visit India after the tests) and signed an MOU on Defence Cooperation.
- Greece has extended full support to India’s quest for a Permanent Seat in an expanded UNSC (co-sponsored the G-4 Resolution and voted in favour of our successful bid for the non-Permanent UNSC Seat, 2011-12).
- It supported India at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in 2008, and 2016, MTCR, WASSENAAR arrangements, and Australia Group.
- Greece also supported India’s candidature for ICJ, ITLOS, IMO, and various other international bodies.
- On J&K, its position reflects our concerns. It strongly condemned the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
- Soon after the Pulwama terrorist attack in February 2019, it issued a statement condemning the attack in strong terms.
- During the India-EU Porto Summit held on 08 May 2021, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed Greece’s full solidarity and support for India in the EU.
- Greece sees India to be a good potential economic and commercial partner.
Agreements and MOUs
Greece and India have signed the following agreements:
- Agreements on Avoidance of Double Taxation (1967),
- Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation in 1983,
- on Cultural Relations in 1961 which resulted in several Cultural Exchange Programmes (CEPs),
- on Tourism in 1998,
- on Defence Cooperation in 1998, and
- An MoU on Agricultural Cooperation in 2001.
- On Science & Technology and on Bilateral Investment Promotion & Protection (BIPA) in 2007.
- In February 2013, an agreement on visa-free travel for diplomatic passport holders.
- In 2017, the Air Services Agreement and MoU on Cooperation in the field of New and Renewable Energy were signed, which were ratified by the Greek parliament on 15 March 2022.
- MoU on Standardization, Programme for Cultural Cooperation and MoU between FSI and Greek Diplomatic Academy were signed in June 2018.
During the visit of Greek Foreign Minister Mr Dendias to India, MoUs on:
- Cultural and Educational Exchange Programme for the Years 2022-2026
- Declaration of Intent on Migration and Mobility were signed.
The agreements/MoUs under process are:
- Agriculture Cooperation (at the final stage);
- Manpower Mobility Partnership;
- Avoidance of Double Taxation;
- Extradition Treaty;
- Gainful Employment of Spouses & Eligible Dependents of Members of Diplomatic Missions and
- Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
- Indo-Greeks were a strong military power, and so were Indians and Greeks today.
- Indian military is one of the strongest in the world and it continues to upgrade its facilities and capabilities. Greece possesses the 16th strongest air force in the world, the third in the EU, and has a considerable navy fleet
- At the military level, India and Greece had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Cooperation in 1998, which was followed by joint programmes of the two militaries and periodic visits of Indian warships at the Souda Bay in Crete, the most important naval base in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Greece recognized India as a “world power”, as stated by the then-Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos in his meeting with the President of India Mr. Ramnath Kovind in 2018.
- When India became a nuclear power by doing nuclear tests in May 1998, most western countries were thinking about imposing sanctions on India, but Greece went out of the league and stood by India, signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation that year.
- Furthermore, Greece supports India on the Kashmir issue, which as per Greece is an internal matter for India, and India supports Greece on the Cyprus issue.
- In 2017 four ships of the Indian Navy (INS Mumbai, INS Aditya, INS Tarkash and INS Trishul) paid a goodwill visit to Souda Bay, Crete; then on 30 June 2021, a joint exercise was carried out by the Indian Navy Frigate INS Tabar and the Greek Themistoklis Frigate in the sea area southwest of Crete.
- Indian and Greek Air Forces too participated together in the ‘Blue Flag’ exercise held in Israel from 17 October to 28 October, 2021.
- When the Greek Air Force exercise ‘Iniochos 2021’ was held in April 20, 2021 at the Andravida airbase, about 300 kilometres from Athens, the only invitation extended to a non-participating country was sent to the Indian Mission.
- From April 26 to May 03, the Greek and Indian Air Forces collaborated on a joint training exercise with Su-30, F-16, and Rafale fighter jets over Greece and the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise was conducted as part of the annual Greek exercise ‘Iniochos 23’, led by the Greek Air Force and the Greek Air Tactics Center of the Ministry of Defence.
- Exchange programmes for officers and administrative personnel and joint exercises can create a stronger bilateral bond.
- The presence of Indian naval forces in the Mediterranean in the framework of joint Indo-Greek aeronautical exercises would be a clear symbolic and practical message of power projection across the Eurasian landmass.
- Strategic partnership with Greece, a NATO and EU member, would further strengthen the notion of India as a valuable partner of Europe in Asia.
- India, strategically located in South Asia, dominates the continental landmass of the Indian Peninsula and the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean.
- India’s strategic interests to its west extend from the Indian Ocean Region to the Eastern Mediterranean where Greece, a traditionally sea-oriented state, is located.
- India’s economic security is also linked to the control of sea routes connecting Europe with India.
- With a demographic and strategic weight of 1.3 billion people, India can project its ever-growing capabilities over greater areas. India’s role as an international actor has increased over the last few years, as it has adopted a more dynamic foreign policy. It is in this context that India can examine the prospect of a strategic partnership with Greece.
- Greece is a member of both North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU), and its location in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea makes it a country embedded in the Western security network.
- Greece aspires to form a vital bridge between Europe, the states of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf, with India as its easternmost core.
- Greece has emerged as a dynamic independent sea power in the Mediterranean, upgrading its military power, diplomatic network with its allies especially the United States (US) and France, and also with both Israel and the Arab states, and its outward-looking diplomatic initiatives both as an independent actor and as an EU member.
- A new international order uniting three major seas (Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Gulf) and three continents (Europe, Asia and Africa) is being witnessed. The addition of India as the major pole of this network shall create a powerful bloc, extending from Europe and the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean and the Himalayas.
- At the diplomatic level, India and Greece can support each other on issues of mutual interest. Greece can offer its support for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) initiative to promote peace, stability and freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean.
- Greece is a seafaring nation and it currently hosts one of the greatest merchant fleets globally thus its vital interests are structurally intertwined with freedom of movement in the seas. This is a common ground with India, a leading power in the Indo-Pacific region.
- After years of negative growth due to recession, Greece now enjoys a stable economic environment.
- Greece has implemented radical structural reforms in the economic sector and can become a field of considerable investment for Indian companies.
- India is gradually becoming a focal base for global manufacturing and a new emerging centre for global supply chains.
- Greece can act as an intermediary between India and the EU bureaucracy and decision-making institutions. Indian companies can invest in Greece and the two countries can cooperate on exports of food, industrial and consumer products. Just like India, Greece has a highly educated pool of workforce including a high percentage of academics, scientists, doctors and technical personnel.
- India was the ‘honoured’ country at the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair in 2019, the largest annual commercial exposition in South-Eastern Europe.
- The economic and commercial relations between the two countries continue to grow and can certainly receive a new dynamic in the near future.
- The bilateral merchandise trade stood at about USD 2 billion in 2022-23.
- Recently, India and Greece elevated their ties to the level of strategic partnership, vowed to double bilateral trade by 2030 and agreed to firm up a migration and mobility pact soon.
- The main items of Greece’s exports to India are machinery, rubber and plastic products, cotton, copper products, iron and steel products and chemicals.
- The main items of India’s exports are machinery, automobiles and auto parts, iron and steel, aluminium, copper, dyes and chemicals, and textiles and garments.
- There is a need for further broadening and deepening bilateral engagements, in the field of defence, shipping, science and technology, cyber space, education, culture, tourism and agriculture.
- Greek-Indian cultural relations date back some 3,000 years.
- Greece and India embody the rich heritage of ancestral Indo-European origins, and their cultural and educational relations are based on a Cultural Agreement, implemented through three-year executive programmes.
- Greek language, history and philosophy are taught at Indian universities; similarly, the study of Indian history and culture could also materialise in Greek universities and academic circles.
- Greek culture through various aspects of its ancient and modern culture, including the Byzantine culture, and Indian culture with its rich heritage and multiple manifestations can effectively provide a stronger cultural context to the emerging relationship between the two countries.
- Cultural activities between the two countries include numerous events, including film festivals, book launchings, recitals, theatrical performances and exhibitions, while there are also a significant number of Associations and Unions in Greece and India that are active socially and culturally.
- India and Greece are two pivotal states overseeing focal points of elevated geopolitical importance in Eurasia. Bilateral relations between India and Greece are multifaceted and have grown steadily over the last few years.
- Greece has consistently been supportive of India’s core foreign policy objectives and India concurs with Greece’s emphasis on promoting international law and regional security.
- The two states also share common concerns on issues of international terrorism and have reinforced their ties with bilateral initiatives unfolding on a steady basis.
- Greece and India are a natural match between two ancient civilisations of the world, between two ancient democratic ideologies and between two ancient trade and cultural relations.
- Today, India is the core state of Asia and a global power, while Greece is an essential partner in the Mediterranean Sea and a member of both NATO and the EU.
- The two countries can deepen their cooperation in various fields by building on their military and diplomatic synergies.
- The strategic alignment of India and Greece in the new geopolitical environment would cater to the national interests of both countries.
Q. India and Greece are two pivotal states overseeing focal points of elevated geopolitical importance in Eurasia. The strategic alignment of India and Greece in the new geopolitical environment would cater to the national interests of both countries. Analyse.
Q. A new international order uniting three major seas - Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Gulf; and three continents -Europe, Asia and Africa is being witnessed. The addition of India as the major pole of this network shall create a powerful bloc. Elucidate.