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Press statement by External Affairs Minister during his visit to Serbia

November 11, 2019

External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar: Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Dačić, friends from the media, dear colleagues, let me begin by saying that it's really a great pleasure to be in Belgrade. It is my first visit even though we have a long and time-tested friendship. The foreign minister referred to the fact that we were the founding members of the Non Aligned Movement, I think even today the spirit of Independence that marks the non-aligned thinking is very much a factor in our relationship and will continue to drive our cooperation in international affairs.

Our relationship is based on mutual trust, mutual understanding. We support each other on issues of core interest. I agree completely with what the minister said that while we have no issues, no differences but we have not had as much contacts and closeness as we could have had and my presence today hopefully will change that. Even though I have been foreign minister for about four months, this is actually our third conversation. He was good enough to call me up after I assumed office. We spent some time in Baku during the Non- Aligned Summit and I'm really very-very pleased to be here today.

Again the minister mentioned, we've just celebrated the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations and I'm actually noting that in many ways our exchanges have picked up a lot in recent years. President Vučić was in India two years ago Minister Dačić himself was there last year, our speaker was here this year, our Vice President was here last year, so I hope that this is really a new phase of our relationship.

In our bilateral ties there are many milestones but I think one of the central aspects of our relationship is that we have always stood with each other and we have extended to each other principal support when it comes to issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity. You all know that we have a long-standing position on the Kosovo issue and I, today, very much welcome hearing from the Foreign Minister that Serbia regards the issues of relating to Jammu and Kashmir as being completely the internal matter of India.

Friends, this has been a very short visit but a very intense visit, I'm still in the middle of it. We've had a brief meeting yesterday evening but a very good discussion today. As soon as I arrived here I called on the president of the National Assembly and we had a good exchange on how to progress our parliamentary friendship. I also had a meeting, yesterday evening, with Defense Minister Vulin and we signed an agreement, in my presence, which would boost defense cooperation between our two countries and provide the basis for our defence companies to cooperate more effectively with each other.

In terms of our bilateral cooperation, today with a lot of our discussion went into the economic and business aspects of our ties. I will be meeting later in the evening representatives of business both Indian and Serbian business who deal with each other. We already have investments in Serbia, in farm equipment, in IT, in food processing and pharmaceuticals and we agreed that our two countries really need to do much more to take this forward. We will be participating in the International Agricultural Fair at Novi Sad we welcome a Serbian delegation at our annual India Europe Business Forum which will be taking place later in the month.

In India there is a lot of respect actually for the great achievements and progress of the Serbian economy in the last few years. We can see that in this region you are very much leaders of economic growth and I can tell you that there's a lot of interest in Indian business in exploring the possibilities for them out here.

Cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts have also been a very notable feature in our ties. We thank you very much for making it possible for Indians to visit Serbia without visas. We have also facilitated online visas for Serbian nationals and I can see that there's already a very visible pickup in tourism. Last year 27,000 Indians came to Serbia, we expect that number to go up. And one related aspect of that is the fact that Indian movies are now being shot in Serbia. We had a very-very big hit which was released this year where you know when we many of us saw that movie then you realize that this is what Serbia looks like. So I'm sure this is an area again where the possibilities for moving movie collaboration can grow.

In the international arena, again we have extraordinarily good support. As the minister said most of the time we don't even ask each other, I think our officials know what is the thinking, not just of the ministers but I think of the whole government. So we almost intuitively, instinctively support each other's positions whether it is in international organization elections or and we agree very much on the need to reform the United Nations and make it more contemporary.

One issue which both of us are focused on is the need to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestation and I think we are in full agreement on the need to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism in all the international forums. This is a global challenge and we believe it requires a global response.

I will, in the afternoon today, have the honor to call on the president of Serbia who, as I said, visited India in his capacity as Prime Minister two years ago. I will also be meeting with the Indian community and with Friends of India and Serbia but I would certainly, at the end of my visit I'm very-very confident that in many ways my presence here and the discussions that we've had today will impart a new energy and enthusiasm to our relationship.

I would be delighted to see Minister Dačić back in India. I hope one day that Serbian movies are also shot in India, we dance at least as well as you do. He keeps telling me that you know there are so many Indians and there's a big difference between India and Serbia but you have Djokovic and I think that makes all the difference. So once again I thank you very much for your hospitality for, the warmth of your welcome, for your close friendship and I'm very-very sure that today's meeting will be a new phase of our relationship. Thank you very much.

Answer to a question on Kosovo: I think on Kosovo our position is very clear. I have said it, it's not a new position. It is a very principled position because it pertains to support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country and a friendly country, a country with whom we have a long-standing relationship.

When it comes to films you know Indians make the most films in the world I suspected watch the most films in the world also. So we're very happy that this is a new area of cooperation and like everything else in this relationship we would like it to be a two-way relationship so we would like very much for Serbians also to see Indians through the eyes of their films. So we look forward to working with you on that.


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