The Association of Indian Diplomats (AID) and Belgrade-based Institute of International Politics and Economics (IIPE) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the basis of which they would co-operate with each other in different fields, like diplomacy, economy and trade, and international relations.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Indian Embassy in the Serbian capital said that the MoU was signed under the aegis of Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA). Indian Ambassador to Serbia Narinder Chauhan, Head (Asia, Australia and the Pacific Department) of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aleksandar Jankovic and Director of IIPE Professor Branislav Djordjevic were present at the ceremony earlier this week.

The Indian Embassy also said that main objective of the MOU is to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the IIPE and AID through the promotion of friendly, co-operative and collaborative institutional relations. It expressed hope that the MoU would help experts of the two “friendly” nations exchange and interact on diplomatic, economic and other important regional and global issues of mutual interest.

A senior official of the Indian Embassy said that both AID and IIPE are interested in conducting joint research programmes and exchanging their publications. According to the official, the MOU will certainly provide further impetus to promote and intensify the friendship and the mutual understanding between the people of India and Serbia in general.

Traditionally, India and Serbia share friendly ties. India considered former Yugoslavia as a friendly nation. After former Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito’s visit to New Delhi in 1955, Tito, first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and second Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser created history by founding the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Belgrade in 1961. As of 2012, the movement has 120 members. Since the break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, India has maintained close ties with Serbia and other Balkan states, like Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However, India did not recognise Kosovo’s ‘Unilateral Declaration of Independence’ from Serbia on February 17, 2008, saying in a statement: “It has been India’s consistent position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be fully respected by all states. We have believed that the Kosovo issue should have been resolved through peaceful means and through consultation and dialogue between the concerned parties. We have taken note of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo. There are several legal issues involved in this Declaration. We are studying the evolving situation.”

Serbia, too, considers India as its “old friend”. During his meeting with Indian Ambassador Chauhan in 2015, First Deputy PM and Foreign Affairs Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic said that relation between the two countries is based upon the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the NAM.

In the last couple of years, New Delhi and Belgrade have taken a number of steps to boost their ties. Earlier this month, Suzuki Motor Corporation – the mother concern of Maruti Suzuki India – announced that “made-in-India” Suzuki Baleno would be launched in Serbia in May. For the first time, the Serbian people will get an opportunity to drive two models of ‘Baleno’ car. One model will have a 1.2-litre Dualjet four-cylinder petrol engine and another 1.0-litre Boosterjet turbocharged petrol engine. The 1.2-litre variant model will also have Smart Hybrid Vehicle System (SHVS) technology. The Serbia-bound Baleno measures 3,995mm in length, 1,745mm in width and has a wheelbase of 2,520mm. Maruti Suzuki also plans to export Baleno to France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Chile, Paraguay and Colombia in the coming months.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]