India and Serbia have enjoyed warm and historical relations as co-founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. The relations deepened over the years with regular high level visits till the end of 1980s. Once a vibrant relationship, the ties became muted after the collapse of former Yugoslavia, the imposition of UN Sanctions and NATO bombing. The Visits resumed in last decade, but the frequency was markedly reduced with no exchange of HOG/HOS level visit for more than 25 years. Serbia, however, remains a pro-India country.
The bilateral relationship was energized with the visit of Smt. Preneet Kaur, formerly Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs in November 2013 when the Serbian establishment signalled its intention to reconnect with its traditional ally. MOS(PK) held meetings with Serbian President, Prime Minister, First Dy. Prime Minister, Speaker of National Assembly, Foreign Minister and Minister of Economy. Both sides reiterated support to each other on core issues of Kosovo and expansion of the UN Security Council. Two Agreements: India-Serbia Agreement on Serbia’s Accession to WTO and the 99 year lease of Embassy Residence were signed during the visit.
The new governments of both Serbia and India rapidly established contacts after the respective national elections in March/May 2014; PM Narendra Modi and PM Aleksander Vucic of Serbia exchanged warm messages with the commitment to renew the historic friendship. In a gesture of goodwill, Government of India provided immediate financial relief assistance of USD 100,000 consequent to the catastrophic floods in Serbia in May 2014. Serbia expressed its condolences for the floods in J&K.
Existing Agreements/MOUs provide the necessary framework to give momentum to bilateral relations and identify areas for further enhancement of cooperation. These include BIPA, DTAC, Air Services Agreement, Trade Agreement, Agreement on Cooperation in S&T, Agreement on Cooperation in Agriculture & Allied Sectors, Tourism, Visa Exemption, Foreign Service Training, Institutional mechanisms such as Foreign Office Consultations and Joint Economic Committee etc. Additionally, Agreements on Cooperation in the fields of Culture, Arts, Sports, Youth and Mass Media and MOU on Cooperation in Traditional Medicines have been finalized. Bilateral MOU on cooperation in ICT and Defence are under negotiation.
Cooperation in Multilateral Affairs
Serbia and India have a good track record of cooperation in multilateral fora in terms of mutual support and reciprocal arrangements for elections in multilateral bodies. Serbia supported India's candidature for non-permanent seat in the Security Council in 2011-12 and India has extended support to Serbia on the Kosovo issue whenever the matter came up at the United Nations. India supported candidature of Mr. Vuk Jeremik, former Serbian Foreign Minister, as President of UNGA in 2012-13 and Serbia’s candidature for ECOSOC for the term 2014-16. Serbia supported the Indian candidate for re-election to the International Law Commission (2012-16), for the elections in ICAO and for the position in the UN Board of Auditors. Serbia also supported India for the election to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural heritage for the term 2014-2018, for the election to the Human Rights Council for 2015-17 and for the re-election to Council of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Region E (Asia and Australia) for the term 2015-18.
Over the past few years, ITEC Programme has emerged as an important pillar of bilateral relations. The number of ITEC scholars from Serbia has increased to 35 per year. More than 100 Serbian ITEC-trainees have undergone training in India in various sectors like IT, communications, English language, SMEs, management, finance, textiles, rural development, environment etc.
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