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Greece, India to Strengthen ‘Strategic Partnership’ in Mitsotakis Visit

Greece India
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Athens in August 2023. Credit: PM Press Office.

The PM of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be on a two-day state visit to India beginning on February 21, 2024. The last prime ministerial visit from Greece to India took place in 2008.

India-Greece relations were elevated to a “strategic partnership” during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Greece in August last year.

The Greek PM will be accompanied by senior officials and a high-powered business delegation. He will also visit Mumbai before returning to Athens.

The Ministry of External Affairs of India said that “India-Greece relations are based on shared cultural values, commitment to foster economic growth, collaboration in the fields of security and defence, shipping, maritime and marked by convergence on regional and global issues.”

India and Greece have centuries of historical connections. From the Indo-Greeks of antiquity, both Greeks and Indians have learned the importance of civilizational dialogue, and now a Greek PM will be the chief guest and keynote speaker at the 9th Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi.

Rashtrapati Bhawan
Rashtrapati Bhawan India Forecourt Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

As per the Ministry of External Affairs of India, Mitsotakis will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, the home of India’s President. There, Mitsotakis will witness the historical connections of Indians and Greeks.

The Central Dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan is inspired by Indian architecture and, in particular, by the Great Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi. The bottom of the dome is surrounded by railings that can also be attributed to the Stupa of Sanchi.

This Stupa of Sanchi has historical connections with the Greeks, and it is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence. It was a major Buddhist center in India until the twelfth century AD.

According to Sir John Marshall in Monuments of Sanchi, in inscriptions of Sanchi Stupas, there are references to a Greek of Svetapatha making donations: “‘Setapathiyasa Yonasa danam,’ i.e. the gift of a Yona (Greek) resident of Setapatha (Safed-Koh).” Greeks of India played an important role in the propagation of Buddhism in Asia, and Sir John Marshall has written about this in detail before.

As per Hugo Buchtal in his article “The Monuments of Sanchi” in The Burlington Magazine, “The Lion Capital of the Asoka pillar at Sanchi, the earliest monument on the spot, is alien to the spirit of Indian art. It is the product of a Hellenistic school working on Iranian models, and must be ascribed to an Asiatic Greek artist, probably from Bactria.”

The Lion Capital which is at Sanchi is similar to the one at Sarnath. Mitsotakis will see the national emblem of India, an adaption of the Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath, in various places throughout his visit.

Mitsotakis will underscore the importance of Greece-India relations

Prime Ministers of India Narendra Modi with Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Image Source: Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi with Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Image Source: Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As chief guest and keynote speaker at the 9th Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, Mitsotakis will underscore the importance of Greece-India relations on the global front. Unlike ancient Persia, ancient India had friendly relations with the Hellenes with an exchange of teaching and learning happening from both sides.

“India was more ready than Iran to receive Greek forms after Alexander’s campaigns because its prehistoric Indus culture had [similarities with] Minoan Crete,” the German scholar K. Schefold had written in Die Griechen und ihre Nachbarn.

Greece India
Grand Cross of the Order of Honour being conferred on PM of India Shri Narendra Modi by the President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou. Image Credits: Ministry of External Affairs Government of India

India Greece Elevating Ties

As per the India Greece Partnership Booklet 2023, in “India Greece Elevating Ties,” Greece and India have signed several agreements in the twentieth century, such as the Agreement on Cultural Exchange in 1961 as well as the Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation in 1967.

Moreover, they have also signed the following: the Agreement for Joint Commission for Economic, Scientific, and Technical Cooperation, 1983; the Agreement of Cooperation between Hellenic Foreign Trade Board and India Trade Promotion Organization, 1996; the Agreement on Tourism Cooperation, 1998; and the MOU on Defence Cooperation, 1998. In the twenty-first century, they signed several more agreements.

Greece India
Air Force Chiefs of India and Greece. Image Credits: Indian Air Force .

Recently, India-Greece relations were significantly elevated to a strategic partnership during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Greece in August of last year. This reflects shared cultural values and a mutual commitment to economic growth and collaboration in various sectors. Both countries have pledged to double trade between the countries by 2030. 

Nowadays, most Indians view Greeks as friends. The Indian public perception of Greece is quite positive in fact. “We want to position Greece in the top five list of European destinations that every Indian would want to visit,” Greece Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura told PTI in 2017. Indeed, there has been an increase of Indian tourists in Greece.

Similarly, it is expected that arrivals of Greek tourists to India will increase, as well. After all, there are numerous sites with Indo-Greek influence in the country.

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