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‘They call it Curry Capital’

Ashok Tuteja |

His Excellency Riho Kruuv is the Estonian Ambassador to India, Myanmar and Singapore,and Ambassador Designate to Sri Lanka. Prior to this assignment, he held several high ranking positions in the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,in the Security Policy and Arms Control Division, Political Department and as Chair of the Estonian Export Control Authority.He has also served at the Estonian missions in Canada and the United States. In this interview to Ashok Tuteja, he speaks on India-Estonia and India-EU relations as well as various schemes being initiated by his country to promote commercial links between the two nations. Excerpts:

How do you look at current state of economic and political relations between India and Estonia?

Relations are very good. We just celebrated late last year 25 years of diplomatic relations between us. India was among the first countries with which we established contact once we got freedom. The embassy in New Delhi started functioning four years back. I have been here for seven months. My work with India is practically in all fields, particularly business development. As a country and as a member of the European Union (EU), who will get its Presidency in July, we try to develop our relationship with India bilaterally as well as in the EU framework.

A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the European Union (EU) is being negotiated for almost a decade now but it has not fructified. What are the problems?

It seems there has not been much of interest on both sides to move forward very quickly because trade has developed even without an FTA. We would of course like to see this agreement finalised as quickly as possible because we see a lot of opportunities in India. It's a big country. Estonia is unique in the sense that we have established a very liberal trade regime. We are very easy to access. We are very open to Indian companies coming to Estonia and establishing businesses there. We are actively developing e-government services. Now that we have the infrastructure, we have started an e-Residency scheme. India is one of the primary targets under the scheme for this year. The e-mail address of the website for the purpose is

Estonia is a beautiful country with a huge tourism potential. What steps are you taking to promote your country as a touristdestinationforIndians?

Estonia is a very popular tourist destination. We have been ranked very high in all kinds of services. What might also sound interesting to Indians is that we have as many as 19 Indian restaurants. Estonia is called the 'Curry Capital of the North'. We try to work with Indian travel agencies to promote Estonia as a tourist destination. From Estonia, you can easily visit Latvia, Lithuania and St Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia which is just 200 km.

Are there any plans to establish direct air links between India and Estonia?

We don't have direct flights between India and Estonia. Finnair is quite convenient. Many people fly to Helsinki from where it takes two hours by ferry to reach Estonia.

High-level exchanges between India and Estonia are far and few. What steps are the two countries taking to promote high-level exchanges?

I agree with you to certain extent but not entirely. Indian IT and Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had visited Estonia in September last year to learn about egovernance and cyber security. We are now preparing for Minister of State for External affairs MJ Akbar's visit in late May. Of course, we would like to see more visits happening. We are also looking forward to our Minister of Entrepreneurship and Communication Technology Urve Palo's visit to India later this year. At some point of time, we are looking at the possibility of a very highlevel visit from either side. We are realists…your Prime Minister will not fly out just to visit

Estonia. Does Estonia support India's candidature for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council?

We are definitely in favour of reforms of the UN as it does not reflect the real world any more. In terms of who should be added, this is one part of the general discussion which is to be handled as part of the whole package. I am confident we have not taken a position on who should be added. We are supportive of India's aspirations. It has a good case to play a greater role but it is too early to say how the future

Security Council should work. Howareyoupromoting'Startups' in Estonia?

Estonia has been very active in 'Startups'. We are also working on a project to bring 10 Indian companies to Estonia to participate in a conference in May end. They will spend ten months in Estonia to explore business opportunities. We have also started 'Startup Visa' which Indians can also make use of.