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LN: Czech diplomacy turning attention to India

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Prague, Dec 20 (CTK) – Czech diplomacy is turning its attention to India after a series of trips of Czech top politicians to China and its President Xi Jinping’s March visit to Prague, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday on Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek’s forthcoming three-day journey to India.
In fact, the mission to the country, which has been a perpetual rival of the “Middle Kingdom,” serves as an advance trip before a visit by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), LN writes.
India now has a large economy with a robust growth whose economic development rate has outstripped that of China, it adds.
Zaoralek’s visit will end a three-year pause in the contacts. The previous visit to India was paid by former foreign minister Jan Kohout in 2013.
The delegation headed by Zaoralek includes over 20 Czech businesspeople and representatives of the companies which do business in India or are planning it, LN writes.
These are mainly the Skoda Auto car maker, which manufactures its makes Rapid, Octavia, Yeti and Superb in India, and the Tatra lorry maker whose vehicles are widely used by the Indian military, it adds.
The group Home Credit, owned by billionaires Petr Kellner and Jiri Smejc, is also present on the Indian market, LN writes.
The firm has opened its branches in India’s largest cities and some time ago, its mother group PPT asked for a bank licence in India. Now it is expanding to Southeast Asia, it adds.
Zaoralek’s visit and the business forum are to help Czech businesses in India and to attract Indian investors to the Czech Republic, but his trip also follows at least one more aim. It is an advance trip for Sobotka’s planned visit which is scheduled for the first half of next year, LN writes.
A visit by the Indian president to Prague is also being negotiated, it adds.
Zaoralek has said that India is very interested in intensifying the relations with the Czech Republic, LN writes.
A role can be played by Prague having intensified its contacts with India’s power rival, China, in the past two years, it adds.
Top Czech elected officials made trips to China, while President Milos Zeman went there even twice. In March, President Xi Jinping paid a visit to Prague, LN writes.
Zaoralek has dismissed the notion that the current visit to India is to outweigh the current close contacts with China and to be a compensation in the relations with Asia, it adds.
“One cannot say about the journey that it will take place due to China and that it is to compensate for it,” Zaoralek is quoted as saying.
“These things cannot be pitted against one another,” Zaoralek told the paper.
“Both markets are important and the Czech Republic is dealing with the relationship with South Korea with the same intensity,” he added.
“I would like to say that the interest in Asia is quite balanced,” Zaoralek said.
“India simply cannot be overlooked and one has to use what it offers,” he added.
The paper writes the rivalry between China and India has been escalating since Xi Jinping took up office in 2012 and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi two years later.

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