Spain discovers the rising India, albeit belatedly

October 20th, 2008 - 11:41 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) Spain is discovering India as a rising global power after years of China-fixation, say Spanish diplomats who recall the “huge success” of the recent Festival of India there and the excitement it ignited in the country for India.”Spain was concentrating on Latin America, Maghreb and Europe. In the late 1990s, we discovered the whole activity of the world, economic and political, was shifting to Asia,” Jesus Sanz, a veteran Spanish diplomat and Asia expert told IANS during a visit here.

Sanz, who was in India to attend the fourth edition of the India-Spain dialogue, is director general of Casa Asia (Asia House), a leading Spanish think tank founded in 2002 which is in the forefront of bringing Spain - an influential EU country that boasts of the world’s eight largest economy - and Asia closer.

Tracing Spain’s rediscovery of a modern India moored in its ancient traditions, he recalled how the Spanish government came out with an action plan in 2000 to establish Spain’s greater presence in the Asia-Pacific Region.

China was the first stop in Spain’s new way of looking at Asia. “It started with China - China was seen in Spain as a big power, a rising economy and a huge country, which was claiming a big place in the world.”

Casa Asia organises an annual East-West dialogue, which attracts policymakers and intellectuals from Asia and Europe.

“India, on the other hand, was seen more as an exotic country and was identified in people’s minds with yoga, Hinduism, spirituality and tandoori chicken,” said Sanz, a veteran diplomat who has held key positions, including the director of the office in Spain’s Asian Department of Foreign Affairs.

In the late 1990s, Spain discovered that India is much more than these exotic images. “It was the same case with China. For long China, too, was confused with Tai Chi, Kung-fu, tea leaves and Chinese food,” he said.

“The vision of China and the vision of India are now getting balanced not only in Spain but also in Europe. India is now seen not only as a regional power but as a country which is playing a bigger role in international affairs.”

Sanz excitedly recalled the Festival of India held in Spain last month, saying it was a huge success with the Spaniards who turned out in large numbers to watch performances by Indian dancers and musicians.

“It was a treat for Spaniards and helped them discover different aspects of modern India and Indian culture,” he said.

“The ignition has already been done… now we are heading towards cruising power. It will take some more years. But we are on the right track,” said Sanz.

Sanz was not alone in his enthusiasm for India. Twenty-odd Spanish diplomats who had come here to participate in the fourth India-Spain dialogue, organised by the Indian Council for World Affairs, were also excited at the untapped potential of engagement between India and Spain.

“We have not realised the potential of India and the potential of India-Spain relationship. There is huge scope in just about every area, specially culture, education and tourism,” said Angel Lossada Torres-Quevedo, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a position analogous to that of secretary in the external affairs ministry in India.

There is a potential for developing a strategic partnership between the two countries on an entire range of common global issues like terrorism, energy security and climate change, Torres-Quevedo told IANS.

“We have been victims of terrorism. India has suffered from terrorism for long. Together, we can strengthen the international legal and political framework to strengthen the fight against terrorism,” he said.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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