Belarus offers to share laser-optical tech with India

Minsk (Belarus), April 15 (PTI): The erstwhile Soviet state of Belarus has offered to share with India laser-optical technology that is crucial for civil and defence applications, including in the guidance systems of smart weapons and missiles.

Belarus will be setting up a laser-optical research centre in India under an agreement to be signed during the visit of its President Alexander Lukashenka to India beginning today.

India will be training Belarus personnel in Information Technology with the prospect of setting up a technology park in Minsk, 52-year-old Lukashenka said in an exclusive interview in the ornate Blakitny (blue) hall of the massive Stalin era Presidential Palace.

"We have a huge technological potential, much more than our own requirements and we are ready to share it with India," he said.

Lukashenka said strategic relations with nuclear powers -- India, China and Russia-- are the cornerstone of his country's foreign policy.

"Relations with India are the pride of our foreign policy. I underscore that we are proud of our close and friendly ties with India, dating back to decades and centuries," said the Belarus strongman, dubbed as the last dictator in Europe.

Lukashenka said Belarus backs India's candidature for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council with full veto rights.

"In 1998, speaking from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly, we had declared that in the changed world without India the mandate of Security Council is fractured to some extent," said Lukashenka responding to a question on New Delhi's bid for the permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

"Almost ten years back we had declared that it was highly unjustified that a country with the population of over a billion, possessing high technologies and like China, a nuclear power, is not represented in the Security Council," Lukashenka said.

He said that his nation of 10 million people, sandwiched between NATO and powerful Russia, will vote for India, whenever its candidature for the UNSC is put on vote.

"Depriving a nuclear power like India of the right of veto or other attributes of a permanent member as enjoyed by other permanent five will be an insult to the nation," Lukashenka said.

Lukashenka also sounded very optimistic about trilateral defence cooperation among India, Russia and Belarus.

"Here we are not competitors with Russia. Moscow has involved us in several defence projects with India and more are in the pipeline," said Lukashenka, who has managed to preserve the potent military-technical complex inherited from the ex-USSR and banned the defence enterprises from churning out casseroles and spades under the so-called policy of conversion adopted by many former Soviet republics, including Russia.

Replying to questions, Lukashenka said India must take a lead in rejuvenating the Non-Aligned Movement. "I have requests from many NAM Heads of State that I talk to India to play a more active role," he said.

"Only a country like India with its enormous economic, technological potential, international authority, oldest civilisation and culture can lift NAM to a new, higher plane," said the President of Belarus, the only European member-state of the NAM.

"Havana summit demonstrated that NAM has bright future and it needs to create a core group of economically developed nations to become a force to reckon with and which could help the least developed nations in using their vast and rich resources," Lukashenka said.

He said NAM members like India, Malaysia, Alegria, Egypt and South Africa are already economic powerhouses capable of forming the economic core.

Lukashenka recalled that ex-Soviet Union had very close and "friendly, fraternal" relations with India and helped in its becoming a military and technological power.

He lauded India's foreign policy for restoring and upgrading the level of bilateral relations with the former key Soviet republics like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and others.

Lukashenka said that since his last visit to India ten years ago, the two countries have restored the level of scientific and technological cooperation which declined after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

"We have already moved beyond it and during our talks in New Delhi with the Indian leaders and businessmen we will discuss further deepening of bilateral scientific and technological relations," he said.

Lukashenka said that his visit to India would help in reviving the image of the country in Belarus, where the older generation grew up on the beautiful, world class Indian movies and in the spirit of fraternal relations between Soviet Union and India, especially in the years of Leonid Brezhnev and Indira Gandhi.

"However, unlike politicians, economists and experts, the common people of Belarus are mostly unaware of the awesome, stunning development of India in the recent years. Of course it is facing huge problems also, but who is not facing problems in the world today? Due you think it is easy to feed and dress one billion people?

"My media team would spare no efforts to project a vibrant and true picture of India so as to refresh the image of the ancient land," Lukashenka said.

The Indo-Belarus trade is around 300 million dollars. Potash exports to India has a lions share while Belarus mainly imports tea and pharmaceuticals from India.