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E-Pao! Essay - Holkhomang Haokip's Visit to Russia & Finland

Holkhomang Haokip's Visit to Russia & Finland
By:- G. S. Oinam *



"The strength of small nation lies in its culture, claimed Finnish statesman and philosopher J.V. Snellman. His words have must taken seriously, because, ever since our cultural life has been marked by intellectual curiosity and breadth of vision, courage and a desire to create something new."

Holkhomang Haokip MP took part as a member of the Indian Parliamentary delegation lead by Shri Manohar Joshi (15th -20th sep. 2003) to strengthen India-Russia bilateral relations, suggested remarks on terrorism at the second session of Indo-Russia inter-parliamentary commission; and suggested remarks on "India-Russia in global scenario at the second session of the Indo-Russia inter-parliamentary commission. The Indian delegation team comprised of 7 MPs supported by 5 officials. Unlike any other foreign visit, this time, Holkhomang's mind is sound and eyes, ears are open wide because it has a unique feature. He is silent in appearance but hunting for the interest of Manipuri people. A book "My activities in Lok Sabha" is ready to publish which is full of data related to North-East and Manipur in particular. This book will be very helpful to research scholars for North-East studies and Manipur in particular.

During their short visit, Indian delegates met the Russian PM Mr. Mikhail Kasyanov(chairman of the govt.of the Russian Federation). Meeting of the Indo-Russian inter-parliamentary commission was co-inaugurated by Shri Manohar Joshi, Speaker Lok Sabha and Duma(Russian Parliament) Speaker Gennady Nikolayevich Seleznyov, open Duma plenary session, visited central historical Museum. Both the dignitaries co-inaugurated "Day of Indian Culture" at Duma premises. The two delegations proceed with the inter-parliamentary commission meeting on Indo-Russia Trade and Economic relation, International terrorism etc.

In Helsinky, Indian delegates met Finnish Speaker Mr. Paavo Lipponen at the parliament office and they discussed to strengthen Indo-Finnish relationship.

During their stay in Russia, the Indian delegates visited the historical sites as follows:

  1. Sparrow Hills:- Formerly called Lenin Hills, they afford an excellent bird's-eye view of Moscow city and river on one side.

  2. Victory Park:- One of the most important tourist spot near Victory memorial 142meter high victory monument designed by world famous sculptor Z Tsereteli.

  3. Bolshoi Theatre:- One of the most famous theatre building in the world, striking in its monumentality. The pediment of this famous theatre bears four bronze horses racing along with Apollo, the God of Arts, at the reins of his chariots.

  4. Tretyakov Art Gallery:- This is the main Art museum in Moscow. The museum houses the richest collection of the famous Russian artist's paintings of all period from 11th to 20th centuries. The museum has magnificent masterpieces that symbolize epochs.

  5. Academichesky Theatre:- Ballet performance centre especially for distinguished dignitaries. Indian delegate witnessed ballet performances "Schelkunchik" by Chaikovsky.

  6. State Hermitage Museum:- It is considered to be one of the two biggest and richest museum in the world. It presently consists of over 3.5 millions items, with 1.5 to 2 million items on display at a given time. The Hermitage museum was started to house the personal collection of the Czars as a "museum for the emperor".

  7. Peterhof Museum:- It is immensely luxurious royal estate, lying on the shore of the gulf of Finland, a combination of several palaces and parks, the capital of the "the Russian fountains" and "the Russian Versailles".

  8. River-Cruise on the Neva and city canals at St.Petersbugh:- The majestic Neva, its stately embankments, the vast squares, the vistas of the avenues, the smooth water of the cannels.

  9. Kremlin Fort:- Fort in Russia began in the 12th century during the reign of Prince Dolgoruky. It became the residence of the grand princes and metropolitans of Moscow. The Oak walls were replaced by stone ones in 1369.



INDO-RUSSIAN RELATION

India's ties with the Russian Federation are time-tested and based on continuity, trust and mutual understanding. There is a national consensus in both the countries on the need to preserve and strengthen the fundamentals of Indo-Russian relations. These are not affected by political developments in either country. There are no problems in our relations.

President Putin visited India from 3-5 December 2002. This was third Summit between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation since they reached an understanding in October 2000 to meet annually. The visit reinforced the traditional ties of warmth and friendship between the two countries and enabled them to exchange views of important issues of bilateral and international concern. During the visit, eight documents were signed. Delhi Declaration on Further Consolidation of Strategic Partnership contains the positions of the two sides on issues of bilateral and international importance. Russia reaffirmed its support to India as a strong and appropriate candidate for permanent membership in expanded United Nations Security Council. Joint Declaration on Strengthening and Enhancing Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation sets out the ideas of the two countries on towards deepening and expansion of bilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The MoU provides for setting up of a Joint Working Group on Combating International Terrorism. It will be an interagency group on both sides and will be coordinated by their respective Foreign Offices.

The documents signed during the visit endorsed, in particular, the Indian point of view on cross-border terrorism and the need to dismantle the terrorist infrastructures in Pakistan. President Putin reiterated this during joint press conference as well.

Given the fact tat trade between India and Russia has stagnated around US$ 1.4 billion over the last few years, it was agreed during the visit that an Expert Group will be set up which will go into the question of using a part of the Rupee_Rouble Debt Funds for investments would give a boost to bilateral economic and commercial relations. Oil and gas sector was identified as an important area of cooperation. ONGC-Videsh Ltd. is already invested US$ 1.7 billion in the Sakhalin-I project and the Russian company GAZPROM has undertaken joint work with GAIL in the Bay of Bengal. It was agreed that cooperation in this area would include joint activities in third countries.

India resolutely condemned the recent hostage crisis by the Chechen terrorists in Moscow and stated that outside forces were often involved in such terrorist acts. Our prime Minister wrote a letter to President in which he expressed concern on the cowardly terrorist act and solidarity and sympathy of the government and people of India. After the crisis was resolved, our Prime Minister spoke to the President Putin and conveyed India's heart-felt sympathies to the families of those who died in the tragedy and stated that they had joined thousands of others who had become victims of international terrorism. Russia has been supportive of India on Jammu and Kashmir. It has also supported India's stand that President Musharraf's promises must be matched by concrete actions on the ground in order that India can make efforts to normalize its relations with Pakistan on the basis of the 1972 Simla Agreement and Lahore declaration.

Dialogue between the National Security council of India and the security council of the Russian federation is an important element in the strategic partnership between India and the Russian Federation. At the invitation of Mr. Brajesh Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and National security adviser, Mr. Vladimir Rushailo, Secretary or the Security Council of the Russian Federation, paid an official visit to India from 2-5 April 2002. Shri Mishra visited Russia in June 2002 to take part in the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Security Council.

Despite excellent political relations, bilateral trade and economic relations are not commensurate with the considerable potential. Bilateral trade is stagnating and the trade turnover of US$1.4 billion during 2001-02 is below potential. At the meeting of the Indo Russian Inter Governmental Commission for trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC), both sides have confirmed their intention to make efforts at the diversification of trade and economic cooperation.

EXIM Bank of India has signed agreements to extend credit lines of US$ 10 million with Vnesheconombank and US$25 million with Vneshtorgbank of the Russian Federation. The state Bank of India and Canara Bank also reached an agreement with the Central bank of Russia for setting up a branch in Moscow. These steps are expected to further boost bilateral trade relations between the two countries. Both sides have agreed to encourage further cooperation in the area of Information Technology and Computerisation. Another important area of cooperation is in the area of peaceful use of atomic energy and outer space. A memorandum on implementation of the 2x1000 MWe Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project has been signed.

Defense relations between India and the Russian federation have a historical perspective. Our cooperation today in the defense field is mutually beneficial and there is mutual dependence. This is not restrictive to a buyer-seller relationship but includes joint research and development, training and service to service contacts. The 'North- South "Transport Corridor agreement has been ratified by all the three Original signatory States, viz. India, Iran and Russia, and has entered into force from 16May 2002. This route is expected to reduce the cost of movement of goods between India and Russia and beyond.

Indo- Russian cooperation in the area of science and technology is exhaustive and extensive.

Our relations in the field of culture and historical.- Three Chairs and two projects of cooperation relating to Indology have been established at St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Vladivostok.

Main items of export from India are tea (share in total export to Russia in 2001-02 constitutes 10.595), readymade cotton garment (27.10%), drugs and pharmaceuticals (12.60%). coffee (8.41%), RMG manmade fibers (6.37). ready-made woolen garments (5.14%) unmanufactured tobacco (2.71%)etc. Major imports from Russia were manufactured fertilizers (25.01%), non-ferrous metals (11.80%), iron and steel (9.56%) etc.

FINLAND
There is something very special about Finland. The location, the nature, the personality has a different aspects. Finland is a human but technologically advanced country with a proud history in design and architecture. a surprise for the shopper. Finland has full of happenings and festivals and rich in seasonal delicacies and culinary traditions. Finns open up once you get to know them better. Their passionate love of various sports is synonymous with their mysterious "Sisu"- a determination unique to the Finns. Finland is a haven of many cultures, Five million people and just as many tales. Although one of the Nordic countries and considered part of the Scandinavian group; Finland's history is very different.

Helsinki, the Finnish capital, is a dynamically developing internationally oriented metropolis, which through the centuries has successfully managed to retain of human dimension and its unique proximity to the nature. Halsinki took its rightful place as one of the cultural capitals of Europe in 2000. Finland is well known for its thousands of lakes and midnight sun, where the sun does not set for several weeks around midsummer in northern Finland. The night does not get dark at all, days being separated by just a couple of hours of twilight. Finland perhaps, may have the finest road and traffic system in the world. It has right hand traffic with overtaking on the left. Most road signs are similar to those used elsewhere in continental Europe. The most unique feature is 120 km fenced King's road. It offers plenty to see and experienced.

FINLAND (SUOMI )- A FACT SHEET
Official Name:- Republic of Finland.
Area:- 338,000 Sq.km., Sixth largest in Europe with187888 Lakes and 179584 Island. Forest Cover 69% of area and water 10%.
Population:- 5.2 million (2002) Males; 48.8%, Female:- 51.2%
Main cities:- Helsinki (capital ), Espoo,Tampere, Vantaa, Turku, Oulu.
Religion:- Evangelical Lutheran (85%), Orthodox, Catholic etc.
Languages:- Finnish(93%), Swedish (both official languages )
Currency:- Euro since Jan.2002.
Unemployment:- 7.3% (july,03)
Inflation:- 1.65 (2002)
Suicide rate:- Finland has high suicide rate in the world.
Indian Community:- is estimated to be about a thousand strong. They are mainly in retail business, restaurants and professions. a few hundred are working in NOKIA.

POLITICAL:- On 6th December 1917, Finland unilaterally declared its independence from suzerainty of Imperial Russia. In 1955, Finland joined UNO. Finland is a multi party democracy with 200 member unicameral Parliament (EDUSKUNTA). Mrs. Tarja Halonen is President of Republic. w.e.f. 1st march 2000 for six years term. President is elected by public and is the Supreme Commander of arm forces. President directs foreign Policy in cooperation with the Govt. President on certain matters can overrule PM. Every Friday President presides over the Presidential Session of the Cabinet where President alone takes decisions Parliament now elects PM. Present Govt .is a coalition of three parties(Centre Party, SDP& Swedish People Party)led by Prime Minister Mr. Matti Vanhanen of the Centre party. In 1995, Finland became a member of EU and held EU Presidency from July to dec.1999. It is not a member of NATO but participates in Partnership for Peace (pfp).Whether Finland should become a full member of NATO and when, are topical issues in press. There are 56 newspapers, Helsingin Sanomat has largest circulation (0.5 million).

Economy:- Finnish GDP growth has been above EU average and inflation lower than EMU average. Finland is a welfare state: about 25% of budget going to social services. In 2002, Finnish GDP was Euro 140 billion per capita was Euro 22500 in 2002. Finland is a highly taxed country. Finland is an advanced industrial economy and is said to be the most online nation in the world with over 70% population having mobile phone/access to internet. Exports constitute highly percentage of GDP so Finland is very vulnerable to fluctuations in world trade. The current account surplus was Euro 10.27 billion in 2002.

Bilateral:- Finland is one of the eight countries with which India has decided to have dual nationality relations. In 1949 Finland appointed its resident Ambassador in India but India opened embassy in Helsinki in 1968. India-Finland relations are warm and friendly. The 13th round of Indo-Finnish joint Economic Commission was held in New Delhi in Nov. 2002. The first meeting of the Joint Working Group in Environment took place at New Delhi on 18th October 02 and second in Finland in July, 03.

Trade:- Finland enjoys trade surplus with India. In FY 2001-02, Indian exports to Finland as per DGCIS increased by 28%. As per Finnish data, Finnish exports to India totaled Euro 143.9 million (99), Euro303.59 million (2000) and Euro 214 million (2001). And, Finnish imports from India totaled Euro 64.63 million (1999), Euro84.32 million (2000)* and Euro 86 million (2001)*. During 2002, Indian export was Euro84.57 million and Indian import was Euro 192.4 million. This figure does not include (about USD 20 million) invisible earnings of Indian IT companies in Finland. At present, TCS, Wipro, Bluestar, Zenser(Pune), Tooltech(Pune) are executing several contracts in Finland. In October 02, FICCI signed a MoU with the Central Chamber of Commerce of Finland and with Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation Ltd (FINNFUND). An MOU between the Tampered Chamber of Commerce, Finland and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Delhi was signed in January 2003 for promoting technology transfer and IFCI of India. FINNFUND has MOU with EXIM Bank of India and IFCI of India. In November 02, Agreement on Promotion & Protection of Investment was signed. In 1997, Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation was updated.


The writer is a journalist based in New Delhi. He can be contacted at gitchandraoinam@yahoo.co.in

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