India's Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Hardeep Singh Puri is optimistic that Greece and India can increase their trade by one billion dollars a year by 2021.
Puri made the comments during an interview with Greek news agency ANA calling the billion dollars a year by 2021 a "modest, realistic target".
"Greece is a very important country. It is a member of the European Union with a strategic geographical position," Puri said, while also noting the bonds of culture and civilisation between the two countries.
Given that the size of India's economy was currently at 2.8 trillion dollars and that its target was to increase this to 5.0 trillion dollars by 2025, the target of increasing bilateral trade from 650 million dollars at present to one billion dollars in two years "is not a very ambitious target, it is realistic," he said.
"You have a new government and it is a dynamic government. You Prime Minister, whom I had the privilege to meet [on Saturday] morning, appears to like India and the same is shown on our side by my presence here," Puri said.
Puri pointed out the need for a direct air link between the two countries, noting that a direct flight from New Delhi or Bombay to Athens would greatly help increase the number of Indian tourists coming to Greece. The presence of the representative of a private Indian airline in the mission that came to Thessaloniki indicated that there was interest in such a prospect, he added.
He also repeated the interest of Indian firms in opportunities to invest in Greece's infrastructure sector, pointing to an existing partnership between India's GRM Airports and GEK Terna, and in Greece's privatisation programme. Puri also said that India's film industry and noted that the shooting of even one Bollywood film in Greece could help promote the country as a tourism destination in India.
The Indian Minister noted the importance of the 84th Thessaloniki International Fair where India is the honoured country as it will be an important platform for partnerships between Greek and Indian firms, adding that he encouraged such agreements. He also expressed his admiration for the city of Thessaloniki and for Greek products, such as olives and olive oil.
On Sunday, the Indian minister paid a visit to the Indian military cemetery in Thessaloniki and participated in a memorial ceremony for the Indian Commonwealth soldiers buried there.
"I was deeply touched to visit the Monastir Road Indian Cemetery in Thessaloniki, the final resting place of 163 Indian Soldiers who laid down their lives during 1st World War," he said in a post on Twitter.