The first European trip for Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar was something of a surprise. The minister combined his unexpected visit to Russia with add-on trips to Hungary and Poland. It has been six years since an Indian foreign minister paid an official visit to Budapest and as many as 32 years since the same happened with Poland. Does it mean that New Delhi will now pay more attention to the V4 countries (the Visegrád Group, consisting of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) or even to the entire region of Central-Eastern Europe, including Poland? Only time will tell, but there is certainly potential and goodwill on both sides to take the relationship to the next level.
India and Poland are not very significant economic partners. From April 2000 to March 2019, India recorded over $672 million of foreign direct investment from Poland, just 0.16 percent of its total FDI inflows in that period. As per Polish statistics, India’s exports to Poland had a total value of 2.17 billion Euro in 2017 and 1.79 billion Euro in 2018, while the trade in the reverse direction was valued at 635 million Euro and 694 million Euro in the same years. India’s exports to Poland, while steadily growing, have been usually less than 1 percent of Poland’s total annual imports in previous years. Polish exports to India have been minuscule both as a percentage of total exports from Poland and India’s total imports in the same period.
There are a few success stories in bilateral economic ties, however. As for the Polish companies operating on the Indian market, TZMO is running a factory of sanitary materials for women in Dindigulu (Tamil Nadu) and has been present in India for 14 years now. Can Pack had started a beverage cans factory in Aurangabad (Maharasthra) in 2009. It proceeded to open a glass bottles manufacturing unit in the same city in 2014, and then another can factory in Nuh (Haryana) in 2018. In the previous years, Polmor signed a contract with the Indian branch of the Canadian company Bombardier to provide it with elements used for the construction of trains (Polmor Steel, a subsidiary of the Polish mother company, now has its manufacturing unit in Hyderabad, Telangana).
SECO/WARWICK, a producer of furnaces, has been active in India for the past 9 years, and moved on to a new facility in Mahape (Maharashtra) in 2017. In 2014, Maflow Group, a producer of air conditioning tubes, opened its factory in Pune (Maharashtra). Billenium, an IT company, opened its office in India in 2017, and then shifted to a larger one in 2018. EKOLOG, a firm that focuses on clean technologies, announced its entrance on the Indian market in 2016, and won a tender to build an Integrated Solid Waste Management Center for the airport in Bengaluru (Karnataka). Moreover, in the recent years a Polish bus-making company, Solaris – one of the leading producers of electric buses in Europe – entered into a joint venture with an Indian counterpart, JBM Auto, to produce these kinds of vehicles for the Indian market.
The Indian companies active in Poland include those of the IT and outsourcing sectors, such as GE Money, Genpact, Infosys, KPIT-Infosystems, HCL, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, and Zensar Technologies. UFLEX has started a plastic wrap factory in Września in 2012, and proceeded to open a second manufacturing unit in the same town in 2018. The two Indian companies that are running their factories in the town of Kostrzyń are Essel Propack (where it produces laminated tubes) and Novo Tech (a manufacturer or polymer products), while VVF is managing a soap factory in Racibórz. Some of the companies that have entered the Polish market in previous years through acquisitions include Berger Paints India, Escorts, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Indorama, Lambda Therapeutics Research, and Tata Global Beverages.
One can also certainly speak of political friendship between India and Poland. Warsaw recognizes India’s significance in Asia. India is one of the two South Asian countries where Poland has an embassy, the other being Pakistan. New Delhi is also one of the few Asian capitals where Poland not only has a diplomatic mission complete with military attaches, but also maintains a Polish Institute to promote the country’s culture. The Polish Investment and Trade Agency opened a new Foreign Trade Office in Mumbai in 2018. It also so happened that within less than two weeks of Indian foreign minister’s trip to Poland, the Polish state airlines, LOT, will finally inaugurate a direct connection between Warsaw and New Delhi (the first flight is scheduled for 11 September).
Jaishankar’s visit to Warsaw (at the end of August) was not accompanied by the signing of any new, ground-breaking deals. It is noteworthy, however, that the minister combined a trip to Russia with that to Poland, even though Moscow and Warsaw are not particularly friendly to each other at the moment, to put it mildly. The joint statement of both foreign ministers was also, as usual with documents of this kind, rather general in nature. One of its concrete elements was the expression of Poland’s support for India’s non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-2022 period (in the past, Poland also committed itself to supporting India’s place as a permanent member of the UNSC in the even of the body’s reform).
The Polish side has also thanked India for its past support for Poland’s candidature for a non-permanent seat at the same council, and this aspect turned out to be of particular significance to Warsaw’s relations with New Delhi in the past weeks.
The Current Context
As Poland is currently not only a non-permanent member of the UNSC, but is also holding the presidency of the body, it had to deal with the events related to Indian Kashmir that took place in August. As in the first week New Delhi introduced controversial changes in Kashmir, it was poised for a yet another chapter of diplomatic tussle over the disputed region with Pakistan.
Perhaps anticipating this, Minister Jaishankar made a call to his Polish counterpart, Minister Czaputowicz, already on August 6 (when a bill on Kashmir was still being voted through the Parliament of India). The anticipation proved to be correct, as soon after the government of Pakistan sent a letter on Kashmir to the United Nations, and the UNSC discussed the issue in a closed-door meeting on August 16. While the results of these debates are, of course, unknown, publicly the government of Warsaw has taken a stand virtually identical to that of such countries as the United States and France: that India and Pakistan should resolve their issues bilaterally.
It should be added here, however, that at the UN, Warsaw’s position on terrorist organizations that work from Pakistan is also clear. In March this year, China temporarily halted the UNSC Resolution 1267 which was to impose sanctions and restrictions on Jaish-e-Muhammad (and its leaders Masood Azhar), a Pakistani organization responsible for the terrorist attack in Pulwama in Indian Kashmir in February this year. Poland had been one of the sponsors of this resolution.