New Delhi, Feb 7 (PTI) Led by one of the youngest governments in the world, Lithuania is looking to broadbase ties with India in high-growth areas and Indian companies can use the Baltic nation as a "gateway" to expand their presence in Europe, its ambassador Julius Pranevicius said on Sunday.
The envoy said the new Lithuanian government was keen on expanding collaboration with India in areas of financial services, life sciences, digital technology and pharmaceuticals, and promised to offer a dynamic business environment to Indian investors.
The Baltic nation has fast emerged as a burgeoning fintech hub in the world on the lines of Luxembourg with leading global financial services and digital technologies companies setting up bases in the country.
Lithuania''s new dispensation led by Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, which assumed office in December, is being hailed as one of the world''s most gender-balanced and young governments. Out of 15 members in the cabinet, seven are women and nine ministers are under the age of 40 years.
Pranevicius said the "young" government of Prime Minister Simonyte is leading Lithuania with "new energy and dynamism" with a focus on high-growth areas for economic growth, and the relations with India stand high on its priority.
Lithuania, a prominent Baltic nation, is a member of the powerful NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) as well as the European Union.
In a historic first for the country that regained its independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the new government was formed by three conservative parties which are all led by women
The main agenda of the government is to deal with the challenges of the coronavirus crisis as well as to focus on growth in futuristic areas for strengthening Lithuania''s economy and make it a hub of new innovation and technologies.
"The new government is looking at expanding cooperation with India in the emerging areas of financial services, life sciences, digital technologies, pharmaceutical and education," Pranevicius told PTI.
The ambassador said there has been a steady increase in leading financial technology firms setting up bases in Lithuania as a result of the Brexit, and Indian companies too can take advantage of the favourable investment climate in his country.
"Lithuania is a young dynamic country which is trying to focus on innovative and high-tech areas to spur growth. I think the image of the young country has been further strengthened by the new gender-balanced and young government," Pranevicius said.
Describing India as a world leader in the pharma sector, the envoy said Lithuania was looking forward to bolstering cooperation with it in biotechnology, life sciences and related areas that will have mutual benefit.
"India is a world power in pharmaceuticals. We hope major breakthroughs will come from India in the sector. In our case, we are also a regional hub for biotechnology as we are enjoying an annual growth of 20 percent in the life sciences sector," he said.
"We expect that 5 percent of our GDP will come from the life sciences sector and we have the potential to become number one in Europe in the life sciences sector. We think both India and Lithuania can expand cooperation in the sector," Pranevicius said.
He also identified digital technology and financial services as potential areas for expanding cooperation, noting that it will transform the economic engagement between the two sides.
"If you look at the number of fintech companies in different European countries, you will see that Lithuania is on top. Our government has established a favourable condition for international companies to start their operation in Lithuania," he said.
"Any company from anywhere in the world can choose Lithuania as a gateway to the broader European market. As the government, we surely will provide the best conditions for them," the envoy added.
Pranevicius said Indian companies in Lithuania will be able to get faster access to the European market and their expansion will be relatively easier because of the investor-friendly regulatory environment and infrastructure.
The envoy also hoped that India and European Union would be able to move forward on the long-pending free trade agreement and said it would help in further boosting trade ties.
"We expect that the negotiations will intensify in coming months and I strongly hope that the agreement will be signed and come into force. It will be helpful for Lithuania and other EU member countries as well as India," he said.
Launched in June 2007, the FTA talks have been stalled since May 2013, when both sides failed to bridge substantial gaps on crucial issues, including data security status for the IT sector.
The bilateral trade between India and Lithuania reached a record USD 367 million in the year 2016-17 before decreasing to USD 339 million in 2018-19, according to Indian statistics.
Major items of import from India include pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textiles and consumer goods while export to India include machinery and mechanical appliances, high tech optical instruments, base metals and articles of base metal, chemicals, sulphur, lime and cement.
India''s HCL Technologies (HCL) has been operating in Lithuania. HCL''s Operation Centre was formally inaugurated on December 11, 2019 in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Lithuanian language, which is the oldest living Indo-European language, has a lot of similarities with Sanskrit, signifying a possible close ancient link. PTI MPB RT