Lithuania expecting PM Modi will visit Baltic country

Lithuania expecting PM Modi will visit Baltic country

PTI file photo

 Describing India-Lithuania relationship as a "very positive" one, Lithuanian Foreign Secretary Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa has said his country expects that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the Baltic nation, giving a boost to the bilateral ties.

Interacting on the sidelines of the launch of the Hindi version of the book 'The History of Lithuania' at an event here on Friday evening, he said India and Lithuania have "strong cultural links" but very little is known about one country in the other.

He said Lithuanian people's idea of India is also mostly as a land of Sanskrit, yoga and Gandhi.

"The relationship between India and Lithuania is a very positive relationship. And, one of the reasons for it is that it stands on a very firm foundation. Historical connection based on many things binds us, and one among those is the linguistic connection. Modern Lithuanian and Hindi languages have a striking similarity, due to Sanskrit roots," Talat-Kelpsa told PTI in an interview.

"Indian Vice President (M Venkaiah Naidu) visited our country this year, and there have been other high-level visits from both sides, which have helped boost our ties… We are expecting that the Indian prime minister (Narendra Modi) will visit Lithuania, of course, we have to prepare for that, but we are expecting," he said in response to a question on bilateral ties.

Naidu had visited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from August 17 to 21, the first ever high-level visit from India to the three Baltic countries.

On linguistic connection, Talat-Kelpsa, who can speak in Hindi and served as his country's envoy from 2013-2018, said several words in Lithuanian and Hindi sound very similar: agne - agni, devas - dievas, sapne - sapnai, aankhe – akys, vegas – vayu, among other words, ranging from household names to animal names and body parts.

He said besides linguistic linkage, it is the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and his friendship with Lithuanian architect Hermann Kallenbach that binds the two nations.

"Gandhi-Kallenbach link is what makes India known in Lithuania. A life-size statue of Gandhi and Kallenbach standing next to each other was unveiled in Rusne in 2015 and the ceremony was attended by our Prime Minister," Talat-Kelpsa said.                

Even this year on October 2, Gandhi's 150th anniversary was marked and his legacy is celebrated in Lithuania, he said.

"In fact, due to the statue now so many international tourists are visiting Rusne, it has been elevated to most-international municipality. Also, this year the India-Lithuania Friendship Award has been instituted, and we gift a miniature of the Rusne statue as a citation," he added.

The Lithuanian foreign secretary hoped that the book will act as a bridge between the two countries. He said it is being planned to bring out the publication in other regional Indian languages.

On the education sector, he shared that in 2013, only 53 Indian students were studying in Lithuania, and it jumped to about 1,000 in 2018.

"Indian students prefer Lithuania owing to the quality of education and also the tuition cost and cost of living is cheaper in our country, compared to other European countries," he said.

"Besides, lot of scope in agriculture too, as Lithuania is the fourth largest exporter of green peas to India. We are just a country of three million people, but our tourism sector is vibrant, and last year about 3 million people visited our country."

"We have four UNESCO sites, including the old town in capital Vilnius. And, one of the most attractive site is the Curonian Spit (curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast). But, Indian tourists figure is too small. We want more Indians to visit Lithuania," he said.

The book also describes the evolution of Lithuania, which scholar Pushpesh Pant, described as a "chiselled gem" during the launch event, and praised its cultural preservation ethos, from architecture to food.

Talat-Kelpsa said Lithuania is a vibrant country with a long historic struggle, and "we celebrate three independence days marking three historic occasions – on July 6, 1253 (kingdom), February 16, 1918 as birth of a republic, and March 11, 1990 (freedom from the Soviet Union) as birth of a modern Lithuania". 

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