In an exclusive interview ahead of his visit, Indian-origin Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, said that independent and democratic India was built upon Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of pluralism and diversity and the world has still much to learn from it.
New Delhi: In an exclusive interview to TOI ahead of his visit, Indian-origin Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, said that independent and democratic India was built upon Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of pluralism and diversity and the world has still much to learn from it.
Costa, who arrived in New Delhi on a visit on Thursday, said, “I’ve been invited by Prime Minister Modi to participate in the meeting of the committee to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, of which I am a proud member.”
Reflecting on the importance of Gandhi in today’s context, the visiting premier said, “Against the politics of fear, we need to build hope, with political responses based on dialogue and cooperation. That is why Gandhi’s actions and ideas will continue to inspire many around the globe in their non-violent resistance to authoritarian governments, the combat against discrimination, the promotion of cultural and religious tolerance and the acceleration of climate and environmental action,” he said.
Announcing the visit, the external affairs ministry said in a statement that the trip would “provide an opportunity to review the gamut of bilateral relations”. The two countries want to explore new areas of cooperation in technology, startups, defence, shipping, and culture. “At the political and economic level, we want to be India’s gateway to Europe,” Costa said.
This would be the third meeting between Costa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past couple of years. “The intensification of high-level political contacts and the instruments agreed both during my visit to India and PM Modi’s to Portugal, in 2017, have generated confidence and enthusiasm for companies and individuals to look at each other’s countries in search for new opportunities to invest and cooperate. That positive momentum will certainly be strengthened with the state visit the Portuguese President will pay to India next February,” Costa said.
Pushing for a strategic alliance between Europe and India, the Portuguese premier said, “I would even go as far as to say that we need to forge a strategic alliance between the European Union and India… it is critical that the world’s leading democracies work together in order to manage the huge transformations our planet is undergoing with respect for our fundamental values: freedom, rule of law, tolerance and social justice. Otherwise we will all be prey to non-democratic models, which seek to establish an alternative to our fundamental principles of freedom and democracy.”
Arguing that EU-India trade had increased 72% in the past decade making the EU India’s largest trading partner, Costa said, “We favour a return to (FTA) negotiations, as soon as conditions are met, in order to conclude an ambitious and balanced free trade agreement. It would be a key driver for growth and jobs, both for India and Europe.”
Supporting India’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, Costa said, “We firmly support India’s bid for permanent membership of the UNSC — in order to have a UNSC that reflects the geopolitical realities of the 21st century — but one of the conditions for this bid to be successful is that India also needs the support of the African countries.” This made it important that India look at Portugal as its bridge to key countries in Africa and Latin America. “India’s closeness to Africa, in particular to countries like Mozambique, and the intensification of the political and economic ties with Brazil open avenues of collaboration that we are ready to pursue.”