Cyprus and India have traditionally enjoyed excellent relations. These are premised on deep friendship, mutual respect and close cooperation, particularly in the context of international organisations. Over the decades, the relationship has grown stronger, including in the economic and trade arena, while prospects of furthering bilateral ties are more than promising in the years to come. To achieve this, however, a more focused approach on priority areas is required, increasingly encapsulating the prerequisites of modern diplomacy, notably economic diplomacy.
It is worth recalling that the foundations of this long-standing and time-tested relationship had been laid by the first President of the Republic of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. They were among the pioneers of the Non-Alignment Movement, who realized the dreams and aspirations of their respective people for self-determination and nationhood. President Makarios was deeply appreciative of the support India rendered to the Cypriot struggle against British colonialism. Diplomatic ties between Cyprus and India came into effect two years after Cyprus became independent from British colonial rule, on 10 February, 1962.
Ever since, India has been one of the most trustworthy friends of Cyprus. Both countries adhere to democratic values, norms and principles governing the conduct of states in international affairs. Both countries support similar positions on major regional and international issues and have collaborated constructively in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international fora.
Modern twist to the relationship
At this age and time, India and Cyprus are keen on promoting and upgrading their bilateral relations, increasingly focusing on economic, scientific, technical and tourist cooperation, including people-to-people contacts. In the international arena, the two countries work together to tackle common regional and international challenges, such as terrorism and other asymmetrical threats. Cyprus has supported India on numerous international bodies and remains one of India’s dependable friends. It is worth noting that Cyprus supports India’s candidature as a permanent member of the expanded UN Security Council. It has also extended its full support for the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement, within the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which helps India address its increasing energy needs and benefit its economic development.
Within the EU, Cyprus is a good friend and keen supporter of India. It contributes actively toward the further enhancement of India-EU relations, within the framework of their Strategic Partnership. In this context, Cyprus recognizes and greatly appreciates India’s contribution to global affairs and its prominent and stabilizing role in South Asia. It also commends India for its participation in UN peacekeeping operations throughout the world, as it has been one of the beneficiaries in this regard, with three Indian Generals having served as Commanders of the UN Forces in Cyprus, since its creation in 1964.
Over the years, political relations have been maintained and strengthened through a series of high level visits. A state visit by President Anastasiades is likely to take place in the beginning of 2016. In addition, numerous Ministerial as well as Parliamentary-level visits have taken place, including the signing of numerous bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding.
On the political front, bilateral relations entered a new era. The decision to constitute a high level Ministerial dialogue, in the light of a changing global and regional landscape, was taken during the visit to India of former President Papadopoulos in April 2006. To this end, then Minister of External Affairs of India, current President P. Mukherjee, visited Cyprus in May 2007. Moreover, the Protocol of Political Consultations signed in Nicosia, in March 2001, constitutes yet another mechanism for regular exchanges. The last political consultations took place in Nicosia in November 2014, while the next round is scheduled in New Delhi this fall.
Economic and trade cooperation
On the economic front, the Cyprus-India Joint Committee on Economic, Scientific, Technical and Industrial Cooperation, established within the framework of the Indo-Cyprus Agreement for Economic, Scientific, Technical and Industrial Cooperation (signed on 13 April 1989 and modified on 6 October 2006), is the instrument for regular exchanges between the two countries. Thus far, eight Sessions of the said Joint Committee have been held in Nicosia and New Delhi. The 8th Session was held through Digital Video Conference on 8 June 2016.
However, economic and commercial relations are not proportionate to the excellent level of political relations; thus a serious thrust forward is necessary accounting for, inter alia: (a) the emergence of India on the global economic scene and its achievements in such fields as information technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, (b) Cyprus being a major international business centre, and (c) the interest shown by numerous Indian companies (public/private) in investing and setting their business in Cyprus. In addition, Indian business enterprises can take advantage of Cyprus’ strategic location, including the highly developed infrastructure and communication network and the favourable FDI and taxation regimes. Moreover, Cyprus’ membership to the European Union opens up new opportunities and offers an ideal investment framework combined with modern and efficient legal, accounting, financial and insurance services.
The liberal foreign investment regime in Cyprus is facilitated by simplified administrative procedures, while bureaucratic intervention has been reduced and no limitations apply in most sectors of the economy concerning the minimum level of investment and the overseas participation percentage. Consequently, overseas companies have the opportunity of investing and establishing business in Cyprus on equal terms with local investors. Virtually no distinction is made between overseas and Cypriot companies.
Tourism cooperation and people-to-people exchanges
Tourism between Cyprus and India can expand exponentially. Through the agreement on tourism cooperation, signed in 1996, the tourism organizations of both countries can promote initiatives to increase the flow of visitors, respectively, including special interest and conference tourism, by undertaking travel promotion activities more vigorously.
The area of consular cooperation encourages people-to-people contacts and business as well as cultural and tourism development. Moreover, signing of agreement on Abolition of Visa Requirement for Holders of Diplomatic, Official or Service Passport, which came into effect on 1 May 2008, constituted a positive step to this end. Cyprus was one of the first EU countries to sign such an agreement with India.
The cultural dimension of India-Cyprus relations provides opportunities for people-to-people interaction. To this end, the Agreement on Cultural Cooperation signed in 1990 and various periodical Programmes for cultural, educational and scientific cooperation signed and implemented thereafter, provide the context for a more ambitious implementation programme.
Over the years, Cyprus has been able to showcase it cultural heritage in India through various cultural events within the framework of the EU, such as European Cultural Weeks in India, European Film Festivals in India and Europe Day celebrations and also through separate performances by Cypriot cultural troupes, film festivals and painting or photographic exhibitions, amongst others. On the Indian side, several cultural activities such as photographic exhibitions, performance by dance troupes, art exhibitions and film festivals were held in Cyprus on numerous occasions. The Indian High Commission in Nicosia, symbolically situated on Indira Gandhi Avenue, is actively and effectively promoting India and contributes to the strengthening of political and economic as well as cultural relations. In addition, the presence of nearly 3,000 Indian citizens in Cyprus, either working in various companies, households and farms, or studying in private colleges of tertiary education, has played a significant role in further consolidating and integrating the cultural aspects of both counties.