India-Lebanon Bilateral Relations
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India-Lebanon Bilateral Relations

India and Lebanon have historically enjoyed close and friendly relations. India established diplomatic relations with Lebanon in 1954. Shared commonalities include, besides cultural similarities, a democratic, parliamentary system of government based on a written constitution, basic freedoms and human rights; a market economy moving towards greater liberalization; a large pool of educated English-speaking professionals and entrepreneurs; and a vibrant global diaspora.

 

            The fact that India kept its Embassy in Beirut open and functioning throughout the civil war from 1975 to 1990 [closing very briefly from 5 August  to 16 October, 1989], in contrast to the  Embassies of a large number of other countries, is  greatly appreciated by the Lebanese, together with India’s traditionally strong linkages with the Arab world and our steadfast support for the Palestine cause. Both countries have also cooperated closely on various issues of mutual interest during their overlap in 2010 as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. 

 

            Indian Army personnel [INDBATT] have been deployed in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon [UNIFIL] since November, 1998.  As per the annual rotation, INDBATT XX [11 Jat Infantry Battalion Group] took over from INDBATT XIX [5 Assam Infantry Battalion Group] at the end of October, 2018.  The INDBATT contingent currently consists of 779 personnel. Besides their utmost professionalism, INDBATT personnel are highly regarded for their sincere outreach to the local community and [‘Winning Hearts & Minds’]. For the first time, Kazakh troops (120) are serving with UNIFIL and are deployed under the command of the Indian Battalion since 31 October, 2018.

 

            Total volume of trade between India and Lebanon during Jan-Oct 2018 was $ 312 million.  Bilateral trade in 2017 reached $ 316 million, with  exports from India at $ 303.8 million, and imports from Lebanon at $12.5 million. Main exports from India include natural or cultured pearls, precious or semiprecious stone; spare parts of vehicles, aircrafts, vessels; textiles and textile articles; products of the chemical or allied industries; machinery and electrical instruments;  vegetable products; plastics and articles thereof; rubber; articles of stone, plaster, cement; etc., and imports from Lebanon include base metals and articles thereof; plastics and articles thereof; pulp of wood or other fibrous materials; miscellaneous manufactured articles, etc.

 

            There is considerable potential of expanding trade and investment, and cooperation in various other areas between the two countries.   There have been some notable developments in the historically friendly relations and multi-dimensional cooperation between India and Lebanon,  including the swift reconstitution of Lebanese Parliamentary Friendship Group for India [also known as Lebanese-Indian Friendship Parliamentary Committee] after the elections in May 2018;   exchange of high level invitations; visit of 48 member multi-sectoral business delegation to Beirut and Tripoli;  signing of an Agency Agreement between Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass) and Exceptional Operations Classification Sal (XOClass) in a joint effort to develop Lebanese market for  management, surveys and classification of ships; participation of 10 Indian companies in a major trade exhibition in Beirut; and further increase in the number of professionals and businessmen visiting between India and Lebanon.

 

            The Lebanese people have traditionally admired Indian music, films, cuisine, etc.  An increasing number of them are also interested in Yoga – there has been a large and enthusiastic participation in the public events organized by the Mission to celebrate the IDY since 2015.  The dance classes conducted at the Embassy by an instructor deputed by ICCR and various cultural activities organized by the Mission in cooperation with universities and other local partners are extremely popular. 

 

            The Embassy has been organizing, in cooperation with local partners, public celebrations of 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi since October, 2018. Renowned Lebanese singer Abeer Nehme has rendered ‘Vaishnav Jan To’, a 15th century devotional song in Gujarati, that was dear to Gandhiji’s heart. Public events were held to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti in Beirut and other places, including at INDBATT Hqs in South Lebanon. In Beirut, among other activities, the programme included a Panel Discussion on Mahatma Gandhi at the historic American University of Beirut, that was founded in 1866. The Embassy has also collaborated with other universities, various schools and NGOs in commemorating Bapu@150. Since January, 2017, the Embassy has also been organizing celebration of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, commemorating the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India on 9 January, 1915, at an ‘Open House’ event with the Indian Community in Lebanon.

 

            The website and social media [Twitter and Facebook] of Embassy of India, Beirut have been gaining increasing popularity. The following of the Embassy’s Twitter handle [@IndiaInLebanon] has increased from nearly 2500 in June, 2017 to over 7550 in January, 2019.

 

            The Embassy works closely with several local organizations, most notably Lebanese-Indian Friendship Parliamentary Committee [LIFPC] and the Association for Development of Lebanese-Indian Relations [ADLIR], in further strengthening people-to-people contacts and cooperation in diverse sectors.

 

            There are nearly 8,500 Indian nationals in Lebanon, with a majority of them employed as workers in companies, agricultural farms, etc.  The Embassy attaches highest priority to reaching out to the Indian community in an earnest, active, helpful and broad-based manner, and in ensuring their well being and welfare.

 

            Former Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. M.J. Akbar, had visited Beirut in August, 2016 and held wide ranging discussions with the Lebanese side.  Embassy of India, Beirut has been proactively following up proposals for regular exchange of high-level visits between the two countries with Government of India as well as Government of Lebanon.  A number of other specific proposals from the Mission in recent months for energizing India-Lebanon exchanges and cooperation in diverse sectors are also under consideration.

 

            In the recent past, India has provided $ 1 million ($500,000 in 2014 to Lebanon Humanitarian Fund and $500,000 in 2016 to Lebanon Response Fund) as part of India’s commitments made at the Pledging Conferences on Syria held in Kuwait in 2014 and 2015.  Government of India has also accorded ‘in principle’ approval to a number of developmental cooperation assistance projects and further action is under way.

 

            The Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation [ITEC] programme has been popular in Lebanon since its inception in 1964.  Successive batches of ITEC trainees/alumni have been actively contributing to further strengthening India-Lebanon ties. India has offered 75 civilian ITEC slots and 33 defence slots to Lebanon for 2018-19.

 

(Updated on 18 January 2019 )

 

Useful Resources:

Mission website: http://indianembassybeirut.gov.in/

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/IndiaInLebanon/

Twitter link: India in Lebanon (@IndiaInLebanon)

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvRsPw7PT5kiAn9dohhqgyA

 

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Bilateral Relations

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