The politician considers it necessary to improve cooperation in the area of language and emphasises the importance of tools such as those provided by SICF
The fourth edition of the Programme, hosted by the Spain-India Council Foundation in June 2015, brought four Indian MPs to Spain to learn about the country’s socio-economic situation. The Council Foundation, as part of its active communications policy, is publishing monthly interviews with those participants.
Arjun Ram Meghwal is an MP for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Bikaner (Rajasthan) elected in 2009 and 2014, as well as the party’s Chief Whip. He was awarded the Best Parliamentarian Award in 2013 and is a member of numerous Parliament Committees and friendship groups with several countries. Additionally, he is a civil servant at the Indian Administrative Service and a member of BJP’s National Executive Board.
- What was the image you had of Spain before participating in the Leaders Programme?
Before my visit, I had a general idea of Spain as a developed country and its trajectory over the past years. I had also heard about its reputation as a welcoming country with a great historic legacy and lots of traditions. However, this was rather a shallow perspective.
- How has this image changed since the visit?
I’ve been surprised by the impact the global crisis has had on Spain and how looking for solutions is a major concern at the moment. In this regard, I would emphasise how dedicated and pleased Spain’s people, companies and institutions are to put it behind them and the efforts they have made and continue to make in order to reach that goal. I also found out about its internationalised economy and its strong ties with the Eurozone, Latin America, the US, the North of Africa and Asia. The Leaders Programme has allowed me to become familiar with all this thanks to the first-rate agenda organised. My responsibility now is to go back to India and pass on the message to strengthen bilateral relations through those sectors in which the two countries can find greater opportunities for cooperation and growth.
- Would you highlight any specific aspects of the Programme?
I would highlight the visits to learn about Spain’s transport systems, that is, the meeting at the Ministry of Public Works and the visit to the Public Transport Management Centre of Madrid’s Regional Transport Consortium, as well as the trip by high-speed train. I have been able to see how these services, as different as they are, all work in a really efficient way and as part of an integrated system that makes users’ lives easier. It is crucial to replicate this model in India, where cities often present hurdles for their citizens’ day to day lives due to traffic jams, train malfunctions, etc. In the culture department, I would highlight the flamenco show we attended at Corral de la Morería, which revealed to me that flamenco shares the same roots as Rajasthani music. I believe it’s important to create a common platform to promote cultural exchange too.
- Are there any other sectors where you believe it is necessary to strengthen cooperation efforts?
Yes, the field of languages. Language is very important to preserve our cultural heritage. There is great demand in India for teachers of Spanish, which is a highly influential language in the country; increased teaching resources would boost academic exchange, which are key to deepening ties between the two societies. Finally, it is crucial that there are direct flights between the two countries. Those measures would help the two societies to learn about one another.
- The 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries will be celebrated in 2016. Which measures do you consider to be a priority to strengthen institutional relations between Spain and India?
At the reception that took place at the residence of the Ambassador of India to Spain, Vikram Misri, we reflected on the need to set up a taskforce or friendship forum between MPs from the two countries to make bilateral cooperation a priority on the political agenda, just like the Spain India Council Foundation does. A top-level instrument like this would allow us to revise common objectives on a regular basis and monitor them, and this kind of impact is hard to achieve through other institutions. This would be quite a milestone and we want to work towards this.
- What message are you taking home with you after participating in the Leaders Programme?
Mainly, I believe that the biggest challenge is to project an image of Spain as a dynamic economy with a truly welcoming society and great opportunities for cooperation. It is important to raise awareness at a political, economic and civil level of the advantages that having Spain as an ally and a partner in the global arena would offer for India. Initiatives like the Leaders Programme lay the foundations for a future of understanding and collaboration.