Speaking with India’s WION, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said, “Greece as an EU Member-State has the capacity to act as a bridge between the European Union and India.”
Dendias’ interview with WION comes as India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar recently visited Greece, becoming the first Indian external affairs minister to visit the country since 2003.
WION: What was the key focus during your meeting with India’s EAM? It is after 18 year an Indian EAM visited, Greece. What was the key outcome in terms of furthering India-Greece ties?
Nikos Dendias: Precisely as you mentioned, this was the first visit of an Indian Minister of External Affairs to Athens in almost two decades. This visit was long overdue. And I look forward to visiting New Delhi in the near future.
At first glance, Greece and India may seem to have little in common. India is an emerging global power, with almost 1.4 billion population. Greece has close to 11 million inhabitants. Geographically we are far apart.
However, such an approach is superficial and does not take into account the many things that tie us together. Greece is the birthplace of democracy. India is the biggest democracy in the world.
Both countries share the same principles. Respect for International Law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, peaceful resolution of disputes, as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
During our discussions, we touched on the major international developments. But, we also addressed the need to enhance our bilateral ties. Through regular political dialogue, as well as people to people contacts including in the fields of trade and culture.
Our aim is to develop a Strategic Partnership that will reflect the level of our bilateral relations.
We will work together in the coming months, in order to finalise a series of agreements that, unfortunately, have been pending for years.
Let me also add another important dimension: Greece as an EU Member-State has the capacity to act as a bridge between the European Union and India. In this respect, we fully support the further enhancement of EU-India relations.
Last but definitely not least, the visit of my counterpart Dr. Jaishankar was an occasion to unveil the statue in Athens of a towering figure of the 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi.
WION: You have joined the International solar alliance. How do you see the alliance at a time when climate change has been the biggest worry?
Nikos Dendias: This is a very important initiative undertaken by Indian Prime Minister Modi, along with then French President Hollande, that will help in addressing the biggest global challenge that our planet is facing, namely climate change. We commend this initiative and we are very happy that we joined it.
The government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mitsotakis is taking a series of initiatives in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, as well as increase the use of renewable energy sources.
Greece, being a country that is blessed by the sun, has the potential to take advantage of solar energy. In this regard, our participation in the solar Alliance will help us in achieving our goals.
WION: You both talked about UN reforms, Do you think it is a possibility given the resistance by some countries like China. Also, your neighbour Turkey, part of the coffee group (along with Pakistan) opposing India’s bid.
Nikos Dendias: Greece is in favour of UN reform, including the expansion of the UN Security Council, as well as other multilateral institutions, in order to make them more inclusive, transparent, accountable, and reflect today’s geopolitical realities.
Allow me to take this opportunity to commend India’s participation in the Security Council, where she is seating since January this year and will be presiding it in a few weeks’ time.
Let me also stress that Greece has also presented its candidacy for a non-permanent seat for the period 2025-26. India’s support in our bid will be of paramount importance.
WION: You discussed Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and Libya. Can you elaborate on what kind of discussion happened?
Nikos Dendias: I took the opportunity to brief my counterpart on the developments in the region adjoining Greece. Geographically speaking this region may be far away from India. However, in a globalized world, in which India is increasingly playing a larger role, distances are shrinking.
Therefore, I underlined that what happens in this part of the world is having an effect in other parts of the world. I underlined that the pursuance of aggressive and revisionist policies by one particular state are destabilizing not just the immediate neighbourhood, but the wider region as well.
I also stressed that the state in question is using religious affinities in its attempt to revive empire dreams. Or rather, ghosts of the past.
I also commended India’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, as well as India’s efforts, as a leader of the non-aligned movement in reaching a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue in line with the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. That is a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
Moreover, opportunities for new schemes are emerging. And we want India to be actively engaged in them. We have developed a strategic partnership with the United Arab Emirates. And we look forward to establish a trilateral dialogue [including India] in the near future.
WION: How much Turkey was discussed with India. What was India’s response?
Nikos Dendias: Let me start by your second question. I cannot speak on behalf of India. However, from my side, apart from outlining Turkey’s [neo-Ottoman] ambitions in the region, as well as its [aggressive] behaviour against almost all its neighbours, there is a need to highlight two points, that should be of concern to India as well.
First, Turkey, is trying to establish a military permanent presence in many countries. This could be a destabilizing factor.
Second, Turkey is increasingly playing the religious card in order to advance its geopolitical agenda. We have seen examples of this in our immediate neighbourhood, in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, but increasingly also in other parts of the world. Especially in Africa, in particular East Africa. This is a worrying trend.
WION: How much do you think Turkey has been a worry for you in the region. And how much you think, India can be an ally in the cause that brings New Delhi and Athens together?
Nikos Dendias: The biggest challenge that Turkey is posing, not just to Greece, but to the whole region, is that she does not respect the basic principles of International Law, including fundamental provisions of the UN Charter. She threatens Greece with war, if Greece exercises her inherent sovereign rights.
Furthermore, Turkey refuses to address the sole bilateral issue she has with Greece on the basis of International Law. The challenge is not Turkey as a country.
It is the fact that Turkey refuses to abide by the rules defined and accepted by the International Community. In this regard, India, a country that upholds these rules, can play a major role internationally.
WION: How do you see the Indo Pacific vision? The joint press release mentioned the term.
Nikos Dendias: Greece is a maritime nation. And we uphold basic principles such as the freedom of navigation and respect for the International Law of the Sea.
In this vein, we highly appreciate the fact that the Quad Leaders meeting that took place, virtually, a few months ago, underlined these principles, which in turn were specifically mentioned in the Communiqué.
Allow me to conclude by stressing one more point: India has reached agreements with almost all of its neighbours on the delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones on the basis of International Law.
In one case, together with Bangladesh, India has referred the issue to the International Court of Justice. This reflects exactly Greece’s position on the issue.
Only one of India’s neighbours is still refusing to abide by these principles. Greece is facing a similar situation whereby only one neighbour is refusing to respect the same rules.