With a shared history and culture, and the commonwealth heritage, Malta and India are discussing the ways to strengthen the ties between both the countries. Since the last two years, both the countries have taken significant steps in building stronger ties. In 2017, India reopened its resident mission in Malta and in March this year India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had a meeting with Malta’s Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela in New Delhi.
Indian government responded positively after the meeting between the two ministers and a statement issued by the country’s External Affairs Ministry stated: “The discussions between the two Ministers focused on building closer cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, trade fairs, financial services, information technology and tourism.”
Ravish Kumar, spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry of India had added: “India was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of Malta in 1964 and the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1965.” Both the countries have improved bilateral ties and trade over the last few years. In the Financial Year 2017-18, the trade between the two countries reached a record high of $350 million.
India being a large market and also the biggest democracy in the world provides a host of opportunities for Malta and its businesses. At the same time, India’s Bollywood film industry has been increasingly choosing Malta as its preferred destination for shooting. One of the biggest film industries in the world, Bollywood has a lot from which the Maltese film industry can learn.
Malta is also home to about 400 Indians and the University of Malta is now offering courses on Sanskrit – India’s most ancient language. The cultural relations, however, are decades old as a Cultural Cooperation Agreement was signed between Malta and India in the year 1992. “An ‘India Week’ as organized in June 2006 with the screening of classic Indian films and documentaries coupled with tea and tourism promotion. In Oct 2013, ‘Days of India’ were celebrated in Malta with a 10 member ICCR-sponsored troupe giving performances in Valletta and Gozo,” High Commission of India in Malta states on its website.
The current Maltese government has been working hard to attract more Indian tourists to the country. “With India being one of the biggest emerging markets for tourism in Malta, we want to tap its potential. We expect the number of tourists will continue to increase in the coming years,” Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi had told India’s news agency PTI. Around 4,000 tourists from India visited Malta in 2017 and the country is trying to increase this number by 20 percent in the year 2018.
“Talks have focused on enhanced airline connectivity between Malta and India, in order to provide travellers with a much shorter connection to Europe, as well as a hub for connectivity to both Europe and North Africa,” Mizzi added. The Tourism Minister has also been in talks with State Government of Maharashtra and Bollywood to encourage the promotion of Malta in order to give a boost to country’s tourism sector. Meanwhile, it is expected that the relations between both the countries will grow stronger in future because of several initiatives that are planned to create a bridge.