THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India’s traditional relations with Russia are being taken a step further with the latter seeking closer ties between cities and states of both nations. And Kerala is the starting point.
More Russian cities are showing interest in ‘twinning’ with their counterparts in Kerala, after west Russian city Pyatigorsk recently kick-started the process with Kochi. The latest example is Yessentuki, a city in the Caucasus mountains, which is ‘tying the knot’ with Thrissur. ‘’The Deputy Mayor of Yessentuki has written to me, and I have replied that we welcome the initiative,’’ Thrissur Mayor I P Paul said.
If things go as planned, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Kozhikode too will have Russian ‘partners’ soon, Russian Consulate officials here said. On paper, there is also a plan for a ‘sister state’ initiative between Kerala and Stavropol Krai.
‘’It is Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin’s idea that city-to-city and state-to-state relationships and cultural ties can promote people’s diplomacy. This takes ties beyond the conventional country-to-country dialogue. He felt Kerala was ideal to launch the initiative,’’ Ratheesh C Nair, Russia’s Honorary Consul in Thiruvananthapuram, said.
The Mayor of Pyatigorsk had written to his Kochi counterpart Tony Chammani last October. A final decision hinges on the approval of the Kochi Corporation council. ‘’We plan to go ahead with the initiative. Pyatigorsk authorities have invited us over for talks,’’ Chammani said.
As in any relationship, compatibility is the key here too, and Russian cities that are on a ‘twinning spree’ are looking at Kerala’s strengths like Ayurveda and tourism. Like Pyatigorsk, Yessentuki - which is in Stavropol province of Russia - also is famed for its health spas and mineral water therapies.
Twinning programmes aren’t new to Kerala, and Thiruvananthapuram was in the eye of a storm in 2010 after a proposal to twin it with Spanish port city Barcelona kicked up a political storm.