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Posted at: Oct 9, 2017, 9:34 PM; last updated: Oct 9, 2017, 10:10 PM (IST)

Radicalism is rising in the world because of lack of leadership: Lithuanian Foreign Minister

Radicalism is rising in the world because of lack of leadership: Lithuanian Foreign Minister
Lithuanian Minister Linkevičius

Smita Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 9

Lithuanian Minister Linas Linkevičius, who is on an official visit to India to celebrate 25th year of establishment of diplomatic relations, spoke to The Tribune about the relationship between the two countries, his views on global terrorism as a challenge, his views on what Europe is viewing as Russia’s growing aggression and what he expects from his countries ties with India.

Here are some excerpts:

SS: What were the outcomes from your official meetings in Delhi today?

Linas Linkevičius: We discussed cultural, business and political relations. Two agreements have been signed. Important one on extradition was negotiated for 20 years, basically. Agreement on Air Services will open markets and better opportunities.

I was here to explore areas of common interest. We need to find some areas of interests or niches for India too.

For instance life sciences are very popular now in India. We are considered regional hub in this regard. Sophisticated technology like laser, also 10 per cent of scientific lasers globally is produced in Lithuania. Something that is of world level. We already have good relations in agriculture sector, exporting grains, peas. We need to do more and we proposed to the Indian side an action plan up to 2020. We need to find technical solutions to improve it. Some 800 students from India studying in our high schools, so already good relations in place between institutions. We are happy to facilitate contacts between educational institutions. Research development and science are another area of cooperation. We will go to Mumbai tomorrow. We will celebrate 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with a symphonic orchestra. I will visit the seaport on this occasion. Relations already exist between Mumbai port and our port, but it is more active in one direction — from Lithuania to India. We will be very happy if India were to discover our ports as gates to reach wider Europe.

SS: What is the importance of the extradition treaty?

Linas Linkevičius: This is Important for overall situation. Because migration or illegal migration, this aspect with regards to movement of people, they have to be put into some order in the world. It is not a very hot issue for us today but in principle this could be important.

SS: The 14th India-EU summit meeting took place last week but still no movement forward on FTA negotiations. What are your concerns? 

Linas Linkevičius: In general terms, we are very much in favour of free trade. We are a free trade country, as our GDP is based on trade. We always seek lifting of restrictions, protectionist barriers. Since it is not always the case for India, it is not easy to negotiate, and so takes some time. The impression after the summit is very good from both sides. My reading was that European leaders were very satisfied with the discussions. Indian side was also happy. The ambience — the way in which we conduct with natural partner of EU — it is going quite well. So we believe it will be solved. Of course it is not so easy. Still seems to be moving slowly. 

SS: Has the EU outlook changed on terrorism, individual globally proscribed terrorists named for a first time in India-EU document, which many European countries were hesitant about earlier?

Linas Linkevičius: Terrorism is becoming a global challenge. In some parts the world is especially quite vulnerable, and for Europeans, unfortunately, it is something it is increasingly seeing. Hence the perception now is more sensitive, the reaction always more focused and this is especially important in the international arena. Not only internally we have to do a lot of things ourselves” change of intelligence information, data exchange, passengers data in particular. So it is still stuck sometimes because intelligence services are not very favourable to exchange information that causes some problems. But nevertheless internationally it is more important to prevent terror attacks. So that is why it would explain these documents, agreements or wordings are becoming more and more clear, less abstract, more focused. 

SS: With the rise of extreme right and terror incidents in Europe, does future of Schengen visa looks bleak? 

Linas Linkevičius: Do not think this will be undermined. This is challenged just as our unity. There are a lot of factors that demand to re-look the values we are protecting, the principles we are defending and defining ourselves. 

Brexit was another factor to test our unity. Everyone must understand it is not a given. Guarantees, positive outcomes are not a given, we should always make some efforts. But it doesn’t mean this is not possible. It is a wake up call with radicals, the populists, rising. One of the reasons is lack of leadership in the world. Europe is no exception. When leaders are not talking to their own people, people do not understand what their leaders are doing, do not trust, do not support reforms, this creates some vacuum. This vacuum of leadership is filled by populists and radicalism. Should take it as a message and take responsibility. 

SS:  What is the role of Russia in the region? Is it undermining NATO? 

Linas Linkevičius: Russia can challenge NATO… can challenge our way of life. Russia is already challenging all countries with hybrid threats, cyber, energy blackmailing, strategic communication or propaganda, brainwashing people and de-motivating them. So this is already happening. We have to just take into account whatever has happened. It is quite unhelpful that Russia being permanent member of UNSC undermines its principles using force, even military force to change borders in Europe. Annexing 20 per cent of Georgian territory in 2008, and now annexing of Crimea, conducting aggression against eastern part of Crimea as we speak, while at the same time pretending that they are not party to the conflict. Trying to present to the world this behaviour as a new normal. This is very dangerous.

Again this is a message that this could be precedent in other regions in the world. If this is happening in Ukraine, which is at a remote distance from where we speak, this sets a bad precedence. The way Russia acts is very counterproductive and detrimental to peace and order in the world. Our positions should be principles with respect to all countries .If it does something at the expense of sovereignty of other countries it is not acceptable.

SS: You said sovereignty of all nations must be respected. What is your position on China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’?

Linas Linkevičius: All relations should be based on some principles, not just interests. We are putting emphasis on that. Interest of china going around the globe we know and feel in our region too. We are ready for equal and measured relationship and economic relationship at the same time, but we have to follow certain rules — that is the condition. 

SS:  US and Turkey have suspended almost all of non-immigrant visa services. How does this impact NATO? Are you worried? 

Linas Linkevičius: Both of them are NATO members and play an important role in the world and the region definitely, where Turkey is a big country. We would like to have disagreements solved through negotiations, through mutual respect and finding a solution or compromise. We hope it is possible to achieve because it has been possible through decades to achieve common grounds. This tension is really not good for the region or the countries themselves.

SS: Are you now expecting a visit from India?  

Linas Linkevičius: EAM Sushma Swaraj said very clearly that she must pay a visit to Lithuania next spring so hope it will be the case and we will be happy to host her. 


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