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Statement by External Affairs Minister at the Joint Press Conference with H.E. Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

July 10, 2021

Thank you Prime Minister,

Friends from the media,

Let me began by saying that I am truly pleased to be here today. I know that I am the first Indian Foreign Minister to visit Georgia after its independence. But I come here in a sense with a sacred purpose.

And we have, as you all know, kept and preserved a very valuable heritage of Georgia for many years– the Holy Relics of St. Queen Ketevan. There has been obviously a understandable interest in Georgia for the relics to be permanently transferred, given the fact that the holy martyr is regarded with so much reverence in your society. And in view of our very close friendship and understanding the importance of it, Prime Minister Modi decided to gift one part of the Holy Relic to the Georgian people. And it was my honour, my privilege to personally carry it.

I of course look forward to the ceremony today at the Sameba Holy Trinity Cathedral for the handing over the Holy Relic in the presence of His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

We had, Prime Minister, very good discussions as I did earlier with many of your cabinet colleagues especially with the Vice Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

We have very comprehensively discussed our bilateral cooperation and I think there is a lot which we can be satisfied about. There has been significant Indian investment here. There are 8000 Indian students who study in Georgia. There are more than 50000 Indian tourists who come here. I was very impressed to see actually that some of our well known movies have been shot in Georgia. But we agreed that for all the progress that we have made, the potential to do more is very much there. And that potential would only be realized if our two Governments make a very focused effort to do so. And I look forward to working with you and your cabinet colleagues in that regard.

We also had a discussion on connectivity as you noted, because today connectivity is very much key to competitiveness, it is a key to reliability and resilience in a globalised world. And whether it is land, maritime or air connectivity, I think we have agreed that it is in our mutual interest to promote it and to do so expeditiously.

I particularly want to thank you Prime Minister for the care that you have taken of the Indian student community. This has been two very difficult years so we know that you went the extra mile to look after our students in many cases help them come back home and then come back to Georgia for their studies and I do want on their behalf to really convey our appreciation.

As you noted there are big Indian investments in projects in Georgia. In the hydel sector, hydroelectricity sector, in the steel sector, in the power transmission sector. I also understood even in agriculture there are Indians who have invested here. But I think a lot of that is reflection on your record of making it easier to do business. I really applaud your ranking, I am sure that if there was a wider appreciation of that in India you would see an even more enthusiastic business interest in India. So, we would very much welcome working together on the investment and trade side.

And in turn I would also mention that in India we have today new projects and schemes to encourage more manufacturing. We hope that Georgian companies who are looking out at Asia could consider that as well.

As Foreign Minister it would also be right for me to recognize the strong and consistent support that we have received from Georgia in the United Nations and other multilateral forums including in our election to the UN Security Council as a Non Permanent member.

So overall I would say that we had a good discussion on regional issues. I leave with a much better understanding from the insights that you and your colleagues have given me. And I think a very fitting event which we would be having today is exactly what you spoke about Prime minister which is the unveiling, the installation of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi today in Tbilisi. And I am very grateful to your government and to the city of Tbilisi for doing that because I treat it in a way as the culmination of the 150th Birth Anniversary celebrations of the Mahatma.

So all in all I am very confident that my visit, my discussions have helped to chart a more ambitious roadmap for the relationship.

And I of course look forward to calling on the President later in the day.

Once again I thank you, I convey to you publically as I did in the meeting, the greetings of the Prime Minister and I carry back your message to the Prime Minister. And I certainly consider it a very very deep honour today to be associated with events which are so important for your society and for your culture.

Thank you very much.

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