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Brief on India-Azerbaijan Bilateral Relations

India and Azerbaijan have friendly relations and growing bilateral cooperation based on civilizational linkages, cultural affinities and shared values of understanding and respect for other cultures.

Historical relations

  1. The ‘Ateshgah’ fire temple in the vicinity of Baku is a fine example of the age-old historical relations and cultural exchanges between India and Azerbaijan. This 18th century monument, with a much older history, has wall inscriptions in Devanagiri and Gurmukhi, and is a surviving proof of the trade links and hospitality that Indian merchants on the Silk Route to Europe enjoyed in Azerbaijani cities such as Baku and Ganja.

  2. During the period, Azerbaijan was a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, India’s ties with Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic were primarily through Moscow. India’s Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, former President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (as Vice President in 1956) and former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (in 1961) visited the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

  3. India recognized Azerbaijan as an independent country in December 1991 soon after it proclaimed its independence from the USSR formally in October 1991. Diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan were established on 28 February 1992. The resident Indian Mission was opened in Baku in March 1999. Azerbaijan opened its resident Mission in New Delhi in October 2004.

Political Relations with India

  1. India-Azerbaijan relations are friendly and growing. Hon’ble Vice President of India, Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, visited Baku for the NAM Summit from 24-26 October 2019, accompanied by Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar. Former External Affairs Minister of India, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, visited Azerbaijan on 4-6 April 2018 for attending the NAM Ministerial Conference and for a bilateral visit. Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. M.J. Akbar, visited Baku (30 Nov - 01 Dec 2017) to attend Ministerial Meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process. Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley visited Baku in May 2015 to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Board of Governors of Asian Development Bank. Hon’ble Prime Minister participated in the online NAM Summit on the theme “United against COVID-19” held at the initiative of Azerbaijani President, on 04 May 2020. Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harshvardan, participated in the online meeting of NAM Health Ministers held on 20 May 2020 and on 27 May 2021 to discuss the COVID-19 preparedness.

  2. There have been several Ministerial level visits from Azerbaijan to India since 1991. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov paid a bilateral visit to India in May 2013. Deputy Minister of Economy, H.E. Sahid Mammadov, visited India to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit-2019 from 16-19 January 2019. H.E. Mr. Mukhtar Babayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, visited Delhi to attend the 5th Inter-Governmental Commission on 11-12 October 2018. H.E. Mr. Samir Sharifov, Minister of Finance visited India on 21 February 2018. H.E. Mr. Kamaladdin Heydarov, Minister of Emergency Situations of Azerbaijan participated in the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in New Delhi on 2-5 November 2016. H.E. Mr. Nagif Hamzayev, Member of Parliament, visited India under ICCR’s Distinguished Visitors’ Programme in August 2019. Deputy Foreign Minister was Chief Guest in the Republic Day Reception hosted by the Mission on 26 January 2022.

Parliamentary Cooperation

  1. The Parliament of India and Milli Majlis (unicameral Parliament of Azerbaijan) have had inter-parliamentary contacts. A 20-member Indian Parliamentary delegation visited Baku on 6-10 October 2013 as Observers during the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan at the invitation of Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan. A joint Parliamentary delegation consisting of three Members of Parliament visited Baku on 12-22 Sept 2018 to attend the 100th anniversary of Azerbaijani Parliament. Azerbaijan formed an Azerbaijan-India Working Group on Inter-Parliamentary Relations in May 2020 with H.E. Mr. Nagif Hamzayev, MP, as its Head.

Cooperation in Agriculture

  1. The two countries have been exploring mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas, including agriculture. Department of Agricultural Research and Education of the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare deputed an expert on cotton to Azerbaijan from 27 October to 02 November 2019 to explore collaboration with Azerbaijan in cotton cultivation.

  2. Government of India sponsored the visits of Indian experts from Kudumbashree, a Kerala based NGO, to Azerbaijan for supporting a project by the Azerbaijan Rural Investment Project (AzRIP) of the Ministry of Agriculture for economic empowerment of women in Azerbaijan. The Kudumbashree team visited Azerbaijan from 10-20 March 2018 and from 6-17 September 2018 and conducted workshops in Masalli, Balakan and Lankaran regions of Azerbaijan. Mission documented a video on “Kudumbashree - Women Empowerment Programme” in Azerbaijani language with English subtitles in April 2021.

Bilateral Agreements

  1. India and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation in June, 1998. The agreement to establish the India-Azerbaijan Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation was signed in April 2007. Air Service Agreement and a Protocol of Intergovernmental Commission were signed in April 2012. Agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Civil & Commercial Matters and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters and Extradition Treaty were signed in April 2013. A Protocol on Cooperation between the Foreign Ministries of India and Azerbaijan was signed in May 2013. A Protocol on Exchange of Instruments of Ratification of MLAT on Civil & Commercial Matters was signed on 29 February 2016. An Agreement on visa exemption regime for diplomatic, official and service passport holders and an MOU for cooperation between FSI and ADA were signed during the visit of EAM to Baku in April 2018. Negotiations are underway for Bilateral Investment Treaty, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, and for cooperation in the areas of ICT, Health, Agriculture, Tourism, Customs matters, Youth & Sport and Tourism. 

Economic and Commercial

  1. Over the years, India’s bilateral trade with Azerbaijan increased substantially from around US$ 50 million in 2005 to US$ 739 million in 2021. The bilateral trade further increased to US$ 871.15 million during January - May 2022 with an increase of 108.9% and India became Azerbaijan's fourth largest trade partner after Italy, Turkey and Russia. During the period, Azerbaijan’s export to India was US$ 796.97 million with an increase of 127.63% and import from India was US$ 74.18 million with an increase of 10.9% as compared to the same period of last year.

  2. The important items of direct and indirect imports from India to Azerbaijan are rice, drugs, mobile phones, granite, ceramic tiles, devices and equipment of automatic regulation and control, black tea, mechanical spades and excavators, kali and natrium bromide, antibiotics, meat of large horned livestock, human vaccine, centrifugal liquid-pumps etc. The primary export from Azerbaijan to India is crude oil. Other items of export from Azerbaijan to India are iodine, oil coke, methanol. In terms of Indian investment in Azerbaijan, ONGC Videsh Ltd acquired shares worth more than US$ 1.0 billion in March 2013 in development project of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (2.72%) oil field and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipe line (2.36%).

  3. Despite the COVID related restrictions, the Mission continued its market expansion and trade promotion activities by organising a number of webinars and B2B meetings in hybrid mode in coordination with various Export Promotion Councils and Chambers of Commerce in India and Azerbaijan during 2020-2022, to promote bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors including rice, pharmaceuticals, spices, ceramic tiles, engineering product, ready-made garments, telecommunications, engineering products, tea and cut flowers.

  4. The 'Best of India - Indian Product Trade Show' is organized in Baku by ANM Exhibitions Pvt. Ltd. in March and September every year with the participation of more than 60 Indian companies. The last exhibition was organised in March-April 2022 in cooperation with the Wool and Woolen Export Promotion Council, seeing great interest from the visitors. Four Indian companies participated in ‘Interfood Azerbaijan’ the International Food Industry Exhibition at Baku Expo Center from 18-20 May 2022 and one Indian company participated in Oil and Gas exhibition from 01-03 June 2022. 

  5. Azerbaijan is an important player in INSTC route connecting India with Russia & Europe through Azerbaijan & Iran. Mission coordinated Azerbaijan’s participation at the ‘Chabahar Day’ on the margins of the Maritime Indian Summit on 04 March 2021. The Mission organized a virtual Seminar on India-Azerbaijan cooperation in transportation sector under INSTC together with FICCI in June 2021. The first train carrying thirty two 40-ft containers from Finland to Mumbai on INSTC route, traveled through Azerbaijan in June 2021.

Cooperation in capacity building and education

  1. Under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, the Government of India offers about 30 fully-paid training courses to professionals from Azerbaijan every year. In addition, over 129 Azerbaijani officials participated in e-ITEC programmes organised by the Government of India in 2021-22. India also provides scholar slots every year to Azerbaijani students under the General Scholarship Scheme of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). Azerbaijani diplomats are also trained under the Professional Course for Foreign Diplomats (PCFD) in India. A Hindi teaching Center with the support of ICCR functioned at the Azerbaijan University of Languages (AUL) between October 2010 and November 2019. An India Centre is also functioning in the Institute of Literature of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS). 

Cultural exchanges:

  1. The cultural exchanges over ages between Azerbaijan and India have led to close cultural affinity and shared traditions. World renowned Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi had a profound influence on eminent Indian poets like Amir Khusrau. In recent past, the famous Azerbaijani artist late Rashid Behbudov, a noted tenor who switched to singing popular Azeri songs in European classical tradition was a close friend of late Raj Kapoor. Indian intellectuals like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore are well known in Azerbaijan. A Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) was signed between India and Azerbaijan in October 2018.

Cultural Events:

  1. The Embassy has been organizing cultural events to promote Indian culture, cuisine, movies, songs and dances in Azerbaijan. Yoga is immensely popular in Azerbaijan. Since 2015, the Embassy has been celebrating the International Day of Yoga (IDY) in June every year by organizing several yoga-related events. IDY 2022 was celebrated by organising a number of Yoga events including at Velodrome, Gobustan, Guba, Ateshgah, Yanardag, Lankaran, Icherisheher and Chancery. As part of the celebrations of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019, Embassy organized various events including painting exhibition, seminars, planting of trees, global cycling event and issuing a postal stamp on Mahatma Gandhi by 'Azermarka'.

  2. An Azerbaijan based Indian citizen, Dr. Rajani Chandra D’Mello was conferred Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award - 2021 for her work in the field of medicine. Embassy also organized events as part of the celebrations of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji and 160th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore. The Mission in collaboration with the Gobustan National Historical Artistic Preserve, opened an Indian Gallery at Gobustan in July 2021 showing heritage sites of India.

Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav

  1. As part of the ongoing celebrations of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav on the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, Mission has been organising several events in coordination with various Azerbaijani institutes and Indian community associations in Azerbaijan. The major events include tree plantation, Indian cuisine show, Mahatma Gandhi birth anniversary, Ambedkar jayanti, blood donation drive, showcase of textiles heritage of India, rangoli competition, kite festival, Diwali festival, pilav festival, rice and tea tasting events, teachers day, Hindi day, ITEC Day, Ayurveda Day, Constitution Day, Pravasi Bhartiye Divas, Women’s Day, Holi festival, bollywood dance performances, interaction with Sadhguru and non-commercial screening of Indian movies at multiplex. 

Indian Community:

  1. The Indian community in Azerbaijan comprises of more than 1400 people, including professionals employed with international companies in the oil and gas sectors, businessmen engaged in commodities trading, catering and restaurant business and construction workers on short-term contracts. There are four Indian associations in Azerbaijan, viz., Indian Association Azerbaijan (IAA), Baku Malyalee Association (BMA), Baku Tamil Sangam and Azerbaijan Telugu Association (ATA), which work in close association with the Embassy. They regularly hold social events to celebrate major Indian festivals and events. The Indian community is very active both professionally and socially and has integrated well with the local population.

Recommended books for Azerbaijan:

  1. i) Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz (First published in 1998);
  2. ii) Splendid Azerbaijan: The History and Culture of the Land of Fire, by Glen Alberto Salazar (Published in 2017);

iii) Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, by Thomas de Waal (Published in 2003);

  1. iv) Azerbaijan - Culture Smart! by Nikki Kazimova (Published in 2011).

Useful Resources:

Embassy of India website : www.indianembassybaku.gov.in
Embassy of India on Facebook: www.facebook.com/indianinazerbaijan
Embassy of India on Twitter: @indembassybaku
Embassy of India on Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/indianembassybaku

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July 2022