THE HAGUE: There is huge potential for furthering growth in the Indo-Dutch economic ties, especially in the key areas of water, agriculture, food processing and healthcare, India's envoy to the Netherlands Venu Rajamony said on Monday.
Modern flood management principles adopted by the Dutch nation are of great value to India besides the culture of fitness and passion for cycling are worth emulating, he said on the last day of his tenure in this country.
"The pandemic has opened everyone's eyes to the need to stay healthy and build immunity. Bicycles are cheap, efficient and environment friendly. Electric bikes of the kind popular in the Netherlands can transport people over long distances with little effort. If manufactured in India in large numbers, prices will also be reasonable," Rajamony told PTI in an interview over telephone.
He said that India has strong economic interests in the Netherlands in terms of trade and investment. In the financial year 2020-2021 (April-June), the Netherlands is the second largest investor into India at USD 1.085 billion, the senior diplomat said.
Rajamony said that in the ongoing fiscal (April-September 2020), the Netherlands was the third largest destination for Overseas Direct Investment (ODI) from India with investments estimated at USD 679.12 million. The top two destinations were Singapore and the US.
Rajamony, who superannuates on Monday after putting in over three decades as an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, said that the relations between India and the Netherlands are at an all-time high and significant progress has been made during his tenure. "My tenure has been wonderful here. I have been touched by the affection I got from the Dutch people as well as those from India. We have achieved so much," he said.
Speaking about the role of the Indian diaspora in furthering the bilateral ties, Rajamony said that he would like the vibrant Indian diasporas in the Netherlands to be more actively involved in further strengthening Indo-Dutch relationship. "The strength of India is the strength of Indian diaspora too," he said, citing the diverse and pluralistic nature of his home country.
"I came here (the Netherlands) without too much expectation. The job of Ambassador here is a very unique kind of position," Rajamony said, highlighting the presence of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Dutch nation.
A career diplomat, Rajamony has been working as India's Ambassador to the Netherlands since June, 2017. He previously served at Hong Kong, Beijing, Geneva, Washington DC and Dubai among others. Rajamony also served as the chief of staff to External Affairs Minister and as Press Secretary to former President Pranab Mukherjee.
He is also the Permanent Representative of India to the OPCW in The Hague as well as responsible for India's relations with the ICJ and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Rajamony was a member of the Indian legal team which successfully presented India's views before the ICJ during the Kulbhushan Jhadav case.
Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. Weeks later, India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.
The ICJ, then, restrained Pakistan from executing him. Ambassador Rajamony also appeared before the ICJ on behalf of India in the matter of advisory opinion on the Chagos Peninsula. India has supported Mauritius over its claim on disputed Chagos islands, which is home to Diego Garcia -- the key military base of the UK and the US in the Indian Ocean.
Asked about things that he may wish to bring to India from the Netherlands, he said the culture of bicycling and fitness is something very positive to emulate.
"The separate cycle tracks and associated infrastructure is well planned. Flood management systems are very advanced in the Netherlands. I also captured this in my book 'What we can learn from the Dutch: Rebuilding Kerala Post 2018 floods'. Dutch are quite efficient and direct in their communication. They also enjoy their holidays which are something admirable, particularly when you have a hectic work schedule," Rajamony said.
To a question on some of the unfinished tasks, he said India and the Netherlands have two centres of excellence (CoE) in agriculture - one on vegetables in Baramati, Maharashtra and a recently inaugurated Centre of Excellence for vegetables and flowers at Wayanad, Kerala.
"Under the Indo-Dutch Joint Action Plan, more centres of excellence are planned. I hope we can operationalise the remaining soon so that India can benefit from Dutch techniques and know-how," Rajamony, who hails from Kerala, said.
He added that Dutch can also contribute towards development of India's inland water navigation system, port infrastructure and logistics network. In a rare gesture, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently wrote a personal letter thanking Rajamony for his contributions in strengthening the Indo-Dutch relations.