Economic, cultural ties discussed during President Klaus's state visit to India

President Vaclav Klaus on a visit to India, photo: CTK

The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, is on a weeklong state visit to India. Mr Klaus is the second Czech president to go to the country, after Vaclav Havel who was there in 1994. Mr Klaus himself visited India six years ago as chairman of the lower house. This time, Mr Klaus is travelling with a Czech business delegation, and economic relations between the Czech Republic and India are high on the agenda.

President Vaclav Klaus on a visit to India,  photo: CTK
At the start of his visit on Monday, President Vaclav Klaus was received by the Indian President Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During the talks Mr Klaus promised to support India's claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. And trade was top of the agenda when he spoke to the Prime Minister.

"We discussed economic issues, traditional relations, trade relations and investment possibilities. We think we have something to offer to the Indian economy. We discussed the energy sector, the infrastructure investments, especially the railway system, and so on."

Mr Klaus also spoke in favour of a simplification of the visa regime with India.

Vaclav Klaus and the Indian President Abdul Kalam,  photo: CTK
"We certainly do not wish our European future to develop to the detriment of the relations with our traditional partners. We don't want to be locked in Europe. On the contrary, we want to be opened to the rest of the world, and I would like to stress that especially India is one of our great partners."

The Czech Republic and India have a tradition of political and cultural ties - Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru paid a visit to the then Czechoslovakia in the 1970s. The Nobel Prize laureate, poet Rabindranath Tagore, visited Czechoslovakia on several occasions in 1920s and in 1930s and his literary works strongly influenced Czech culture of that period. The Visva-Bharati University, founded by Tagore, will honour Mr Klaus with an award for his activities in international politics and economics.

Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,  photo: CTK
India's Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachouri emphasised the current and past academic relations between the two countries.

"We also know that Charles University in Prague was one of the earliest to establish a chair in Sanskrit and that Indian languages, including Bengali, are being studied by students, scholars and academics in the Czech Republic."

On Wednesday, President Klaus delivered a speech at the Liberty Institute in New Delhi entitled "Dubious Attitudes of Western Countries Vis-a-Vis Eastern Countries" and later this week he is due to meet leaders of the opposition.

At the end of the week, President Klaus's delegation will assist in the opening of a new assembly line for the Skoda Auto factory in Aurangabad and will visit a Tatra truck factory in Bangalore.