(Update 1: adds minister’s remarks)
New Delhi, Jun 15 (EFE).- The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel Albares, said in New Delhi on Wednesday that he was seeking to strengthen his country’s alliance with India in the light of emerging global challenges.
“India, a country of 1.3 billion people, is absolutely key for managing global affairs and is a key country to ensure stability in this part of the world. We want to strengthen our bilateral ties,” the minister told EFE.
Albares began his first official visit to India on Wednesday, where he met his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, with an agenda focusing on key sectors for collaboration, such as renewable energy, and sharing knowledge pertinent to development projects.
“There are sectors such as railways, infrastructure, airports, water, renewable energy, everything including green energy, where the Spanish companies can add value to the Indian government’s current plans and projects,” the minister said.
In addition, India and Spain hoped to “further deepen” cooperation in areas such as defense, trade, science and technology, innovation, climate and culture, according to a press release by the Indian foreign ministry
Bilateral trade in goods between Spain and India was around 5.57 billion euros ($5.8 billion) in 2019, with 1.3 billion euros worth of Spanish exports compared to 4.2 billion of imports, according to official data.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, bilateral trade fell to around 4.4 billion euros, while in 2021 the exchange rose again to 5.7 billion euros, with a negative balance of 2.7 billion euros for Spain.
In the meetings, Albares discussed opportunities for Spanish state-owned shipbuilding firm Navantia, which is looking to bag a contract to make six submarines for India worth $6.25 billion, apart from discussing high-speed rail projects, another area of expertise for Spanish firms.
The minister highlighted that Spain was offering “Next Generation” funds for Indian companies in Spain, as part of an economic recovery package worth 150 billion euros.
As part of the agenda to tackle climate change challenges, the Spanish top diplomat announced that Madrid was joining New Delhi’s International Solar Alliance, an initiative which has picked up pace in recent months.
Arriving in India at a time when tensions between Algeria and Spain have peaked, Albares insisted that Spain wanted friendly ties with Algiers, while reiterating that his government would protect the Spanish people’s interests.
This is the first visit by a Spanish foreign minister to India since 2019, when the top diplomat of the time, Josep Borrell, arrived in New Delhi as a precursor to President Pedro Sanchez’s schedule visit, although the latter’s plans never materialized due to factors such as political instability in Spain and the pandemic.
Albares insisted that Sanchez still “has it on his agenda to visit as soon as possible,” and that it was just a matter of finding the correct dates.
His own visit had also been postponed on several occasions, first due to restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic and later because of the war in Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
This war has placed India in an ambivalent position on the international stage, for it is a clear partner of the West in trade or while putting pressure on Beijing, but on the other hand it maintains its links with Moscow intact.
India has been neutral since the beginning of the Russian invasion, refraining from condemning the aggression at the UN, a position is a result of its high dependence of Russia, from which it procures around 70 percent of its military equipment.
Moreover, the Asian country has stepped up crude oil imports from Russia rise despite international sanctions. EFE