Anurag Srivastava has more than 20 years of diplomatic service. He served in Switzerland and Sirilanka. Ethiopia happens to be his first host as an Ambassador.
In September 2015, he was assigned to the post as Ambassador of India to Ethiopia, Djibouti and permanent representative to the African Union.
Ambassador Srivastava talked to Capital about Ethiopia and India trade relationship in general and about yoga in particular as the Embassy is coordinating the world yoga day that was celebrated on June 21 around the world.
Capital: Ethiopia and India has long standing diplomatic relations. What can you say about that?
Anurag Srivastava: Ethiopia and India is as an old as civilization. It is something robust that has tasted through time. The relationship is multi-faceted. I said Multi-faceted, because it covers a lot of areas. Of course we have very strong cultural relation of people to people ties and cultural contact that goes back 2000 years.
Capital: Can you tell us about the trade relation between the two countries?
Srisavtava: The trade relationships increase in terms of volume every year, it’s now 1.2 billion USD. It has shown as increase in terms of numbers over a period of time. But one aspect of it is that while Indian exports to Ethiopia is very large Ethiopian exports to India is smaller. That is something that both countries are trying to correct, otherwise in the relationship a lot of useful products and commodities are traded between the two countries.
Coming to the FDI relationships, India is among the top three investor here in Ethiopia. To be specific India is the second largest investor here in Ethiopia. If I can talk in absolute numbers, about 600 Indian companies are registered here and in terms of licensed investments it is about 4 billion dollars. Now I believe that 2 billion dollars is already in the ground and this investment relationship covers a wide sector of the economy. 55,000 Ethiopian employees are employed by Indian investments and if I tell the exact investment over 60 percent is in the manufacturing sector so it is very closely aligned with the priorities of the government of Ethiopia. Both countries are working closely to attract new investment in to Ethiopia as well as resolving problems of existing investment environments.
Capital: What are those existing challenges?
Srisavtava: The challenges are largely related to doing business in Ethiopia and I can say that some of these challenges are based in the regions in terms of land issues and other issues which investment in the community and other is related to structure of the Ethiopian economy as such.
Capital: What are the top priorities Indian companies are involved?
Srisavtava: In terms of the sectors, the recent Indian investment is on textile and garment sector but if you look at the profile of investment covers a lot of manufacturing sectors for example chemicals, plastics, paper and also in other areas such as manufacturing transformers.
Capital: The Indian government is also providing capacity building and technical support, tell us about that.
Srisavtava: In capacity buildings the Indian technical and economic cooperation programme offered Ethiopia since 1969. So far we send about three thousand Ethiopians to India and the numbers of these are largely professionals. Then we have another category of opportunities for students the number of slots we offer for this programe which is very popular that starts from graduate and undergraduate levels in the best institutions and Universities in India.
We have also launched the ‘Study in India’ programme, this programme is offered for students across the world but special incentives for African students so these incentives includes B level scholarships.
Capital: The Indian Embassy organized yoga day in accordance of the United Nation’s resolution. Tell us about that.
Srivastava: Yoga is a holistic approach for health and wellbeing. It is an ancient practice in which a lot of people prefer these days to maintain good health. When I say good health it means mentally, physically, and spiritually. The United nation in December 2014 passed a resolution which got very widespread support that 175 countries supported and India was a prime force behind that.
That resolution states about the various benefit yoga has and we should come together to promote it. The UN identify 21st of June as international day of yoga, so from 2015 onwards we have been celebrating the yoga day in June and the 5th edition of yoga day was celebrated in the 22nd of June on Saturday at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel. Now in the past, this event have seen many widespread participation this is because there is a lot of Interest which have developed over a period of time in yoga in Ethiopia. You will be surprised to know many of partners for this event yoga teachers and other part of yoga ecosystem are local Ethiopians.
Last year we had 1000 people coming in this day and we take them very simple exercise of yoga. They try to create awareness about interest that is what we did on the 22nd of June. And I am also very happy that many dignitaries and important people joined. The legendary runner Haile Gebreselassie has been associated for the last two yoga days.
Capital: Some people connect yoga with worship of independent religion. Does it have any connection with religion?
Srivastava: Yoga does not have any connection to any religion. Yoga is the way of life and this is I think a misconception that yoga is connected to any religion. People of all faith and all religion can practice yoga all over the world. It doesn’t have any connection it is a form of mental and physical practice which is a combination of mental and physical exercise which have lasting benefits for health wellbeing.