Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ speech at the inaugural session of the annual conference ‘Raisina Dialogue’, in India

Prime Minister Modi,
Minister of External Affairs,
Dear Chairman of The Observer Research Foundation,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you, first of all, for this very warm welcome.

It is an honour and a privilege to be here today with you at this 9th edition of the Raisina Dialogue. And if I may be allowed to say, you have transformed this event from a regional into a global public ‘square’ for dialogue and exchange of ideas. Congratulations.

Let me start by saying that today is a moment to both reflect upon and celebrate the strength of the partnership between our two great nations, between India and Greece.

A partnership bound by economic, cultural, philosophical ties stretching back millennia. A partnership between two allies, two countries that share similar values. A partnership that today binds us closer than ever before. But above all else, a partnership between the world’s oldest democracy, and the world’s largest democracy.

And it is to democracy that I turn first.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As was pointed out in the introduction by the Chairman of the ORF, 2024 is a year of striking geopolitical importance. Not least because this year half of the world’s population will go to the polls in as many as 64 countries, and of course the European Union, to choose the democratic representatives who will shape the destinies of their people, but also the future of the world for the foreseeable future.

The sheer scale of this global exercise in democratic self-governance is incredible. It is also a testament to the lasting power of democracy. And elections here in India, as I had an opportunity to discuss with Prime Minister Modi -this vast, thriving, giant nation of 1.4 billion people- elections here in India convincingly challenge any flawed notion that significant scale is a barrier to democracy. You are an example to the world, an example which should be celebrated.

A demonstration of how democracy can deliver stronger economic growth. This has been your record for a decade now. How strong economic growth can deliver prosperity. And how, of course, the delivery of prosperity can also strengthen social cohesion.

Now, of course, not all democracies are the same, nor do they face the same challenges. But they do share the same ideals and the same fundamental guiding principles.

The most important being the right of people to determine their own future through fair and free elections. And, of course, democracies have more than that in common. They are all, in a sense, imperfect. There is no such thing as a perfect democracy. They are all constant works in progress. And they all, of course, face a range of unprecedented threats. And that is why I believe that this year, 2024, will be a definitional year for democracy.

We must face head-on, but also shoulder-to-shoulder, a demanding set of challenges -that were very well portrayed in this short video which introduced today’s event. From climate change, poverty, to mass migration, to war, geopolitical tensions, and both the fear and hope posed by the rapid emergence of Artificial Intelligence.

All of which helps to explain why, when, back in August, Prime Minister Modi was kind enough to suggest that I visit India and that I give this keynote address, I did not hesitate. In a year as important as this one, the themes at the heart of this Dialogue, around regulation, innovation, multilateralism, peace and security, prosperity, and the issue defense of democracy -I will come to this issue in a bit-, matter more than ever.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, India is a great power on the world stage, an important ally in the pursuit of peace and security, a rising force at the heart of the G20, and a leading player in the fight against climate change.

India’s status is reflected in the strategic relations that the European Union enjoys with India. President Ursula von der Leyen was at this stage two years ago, at the ‘Raisina Dialogue’, and she said: “For the European Union, strengthening and energizing the partnership with India is a priority in this upcoming decade”.

I would dare, Prime Minister Modi, to go further: Strengthening our partnership with India -and I’m speaking about Europe- should be a cornerstone of Europe’s foreign policy. And this is certainly true for my country.

We have made good progress over the past years towards achieving that goal, but we have much further to go, and Greece has an important role in this endeavor.

As I told the Prime Minister during his recent visit to Athens -I should point out, the first by an Indian Prime Minister since 1983-, we are at a unique moment of mutually beneficial opportunity.

One in which Greece, given its geographic, cultural, and strategic proximity, can act as an interlocutor between India and Europe and, I would dare to go even wider lens, between the Global North and the Global South, and indeed between the East and the West.

Since ancient times, Greece’s position at a physical and cultural crossroads means that it has always been a corridor for exchanging goods, in knowledge and in wisdom. Today, Greece has excellent relations with all countries in the Middle East, the Gulf countries and is uniquely placed as a connector between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indo-Pacific. It presents so much opportunity for both countries.

We are already a well-established logistics center and international gateway, but we want to increase connectivity and promote trade still further. Piraeus is one of the busiest ports in Europe. More of our ports are in the process of being privatised.

Greek shipowners -something which is absolutely critical also for India-, control the largest merchant marine fleet in the world. And beyond the flow of goods, we are pursuing new ‘corridors’ for data and energy.

The emergence of groundbreaking projects like ‘IMEC’, the India-Middle East- Europe Corridor, hold great promise to supercharge connectivity between India, the growth economies of the Middle East and Europe.

One has just to look at the map to realise that Greece is sitting right in the center of this new corridor. And to our friends in India I say, we are your natural doorstep to Europe and beyond.
The war in Gaza and the turmoil in the Middle East is undoubtedly destabilizing, but it does not undermine the profound, powerful logic behind ‘IMEC’, nor should it weaken our resolve to work tirelessly towards materialising it. Instead, I would argue it gives us even more reasons to promote peace, given that IMEC at its heart is also a peace project, which can bring about stability and prosperity for all participating countries. Countries which are at war don’t trade with each other.

The Indo-Pacific region is a major focus for the EU’s global policy. Earlier this month in Brussels, at the third EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum, we took a series of measures aimed at intensifying the partnership between the EU and the countries of the Indo-Pacific.

Our two regions are increasingly connected because we face the same challenges, but we also share the same interests: promoting peace, prosperity, stability and of course climate and environmental resilience.

Dear Prime Minister, dear friends,

Recognizing the strategic importance of the role India plays in this evolving new order is fundamental. The relationship between India and Greece, as we had the opportunity to reconfirm in our very fruitful bilateral discussions today, is one based on respect, on friendship, on values, but also on the mutual will to see our people progress and prosper.

And while obviously not all challenges are the same, the way we meet these challenges often is. The scale may be vastly different, but I see a lot of similarities in the way our two countries have implemented an ambitious reform agenda.

Both India and Greece have pursued sustainable growth and prosperity through innovation and bold changes. We have both encouraged and embraced the digital revolution, we have leveraged, -you have done this here in India at an unprecedented scale-, leveraging technology to transform the delivery of public services for the benefits of all citizens.

We have both demonstrated the power of innovative and bold reforms that bring growth, spread opportunity, deliver prosperity, and create the higher-paying growth jobs of the future. This is the path to go.

I believe Greece’s recent story of rapid change matters also to a country like India, and by extension to what that change means for Indian investment in Greece and the European Union.

The country I was called upon to govern when first elected to office in 2019, was seen by many analysts at the time as the ‘sick man’ of Europe. Between 2015 and 2019 populism had promised much, delivered nothing, and left Greece teetering on the edge.

Effective policy making has changed that and it has transformed Greece’s prospects. First, growth-oriented policies, always underpinned by fiscal responsibility. Second, a robust approach to migration and security, supported by an assertive foreign policy and the shaping of new regional partnerships like the one between Greece and India. And third, investing in health, in education, and using any fiscal headroom generated by a growing economy to tackle social inequality.

By cutting taxes, supporting entrepreneurs, spurring investments through market reforms, much like India has done, Greece has seen, over the past years, one of the highest growth rates in the eurozone and we have witnessed the fastest reduction of debt-to-GDP ratio of any European country. Credit-rating agencies have returned Greek debt to investment-grade status and ‘The Economist’ voted us country of the year for 2023.

All of which has led to falling unemployment, higher wages, record foreign investment, and a rapid shift towards the green and digital economies of the future, and of course a new more assertive Greece at the heart of Europe.

And today, I am proud to be able to talk to you about a very different Greece to the country that many had written-off as ‘unreformable’ a few years ago.

The confident Greece of today not only wants to be an integral part of region-to-region partnerships, but also knows it can be the new Gateway to Europe for India’s businesses, its entrepreneurs, and its wealth creators. This is why six months ago we elevated our strategic ties through the India-Greece Strategic Partnership.

India is the world’s fastest big economy. Greece has over the past years enjoyed some of the fastest growth rates of any European country. Mutual investment is a major goal of our bilateral relations. I am pleased to say that we already have a number of significant Greek investments here in India, in many sectors, including food processing, led by one of our leading companies Chipita, in infrastructure, maritime and air transport and logistics. One of our leading banks, Eurobank, is establishing its first office in India.

But India is already investing heavily in Greece’s infrastructure, including the construction of the new airport by GMR on my home island of Crete. Indian owned Switz Group has invested in a number of Greek agri-food businesses, and Accord, a European subsidiary of Intas Pharmaceuticals, has recently invested in a factory close to Athens.

The volume of our bilateral trade is on an upward trend, but we have agreed with Prime Minister Modi that we need to do much more, and we need to set a target to double it by 2030. It has great potential for future growth.

In tourism, we have only scratched the surface of what we can do together, as a new emerging Indian middle class will start to travel and discover the world. What better natural destination than Greece given the cultural affinities between our two people.

So I do believe that we can do so much more. Which is why the business delegation, the business leaders, who have accompanied me to India include nearly a hundred leaders of some of Greece’s biggest companies, but also from some of its most dynamic and fastest growing small and medium sized enterprises.

From Delhi I will be traveling tomorrow to Mumbai and my delegation will continue to Bangalore with a simple message: Greece is growing like never before and to Indian businesses, we say: “please, join us on that journey”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I touched a little earlier on the growing importance of the role of India on the international stage. It is the leading democracy in the Global South. Prime Minister, the world is looking to you like never before when it comes to shaping the direction of the global debate and addressing the great challenges that we face. India is now often regarded, and rightly-so, as a consensus-builder and as a voice of reason in an increasingly polarized world.

And we too often forget that the raison d’être, the real reason why the international system was created in the first place was simply because nations, large and small, recognized that their true interest lay ultimately not in antagonism and conflict, but in partnership and cooperation. We cannot afford to overlook the cost of conflict and the human tragedy and suffering it unleashes.

This 9th edition of the ‘Raisina Dialogue’ is taking place at a time of heightened geo-political tensions. A protracted war in Ukraine, new conflict in the Middle East where the violence that has erupted goes beyond even the direst predictions. There is a horrifying death-toll of civilians, there is risk of regional destabilization, there is no clear path, at the moment at least, to a sustainable de-escalation.

As for the war in Ukraine, the unthinkable has happened. A war in the European heartland is still raging on with devastating consequences, two years almost to the date since Russia attacked Ukraine. And I understand that countries that belong to the Global South see this frequently as a ‘European war’. And I hear all too often that we Europeans do apply double standards, focusing on Ukraine at the expense of wars and crises in the rest of the world. Maybe there is truth in that allegation.

But I would like to make the point, here in Delhi, that Ukraine is much more than a ‘local’ war on European soil. It is a brutal challenge to international stability and the International rules-based inter-order that India has supported and has every interest in maintaining

And I think that we all have a responsibility to use the power we have on the international stage. None of us can afford to sit on the sidelines. And I am convinced that on Ukraine, India has an important role to play, it has a voice that should be heard.

Our common humanity and interconnectedness are inescapable. To draw from the Hindu scriptures that put it so powerfully: “The World is One Family”. Sacred Sanskrit wisdom that resonates loud and clear today.

That brings me to the existential threat that climate change poses to our fragile planet and all the life that inhabits it. Greece, like India -we discussed this today with the Prime Minister-, has already witnessed and suffered the consequences. The climate crisis is here. It’s not something that will happen in the future.

We have accelerated our energy transition in recent years in order to mitigate those effects. But we’ve also invested heavily in adaptation.

In Greece, we now generate half of our electricity from solar and wind. It is one of the highest percentages in the world. This transition has brought us cleaner air, cheaper energy, less dependency on imported energy and of course greater security from external shocks.

But we also know that climate ambition must be based on what is fair and on what is realistic. And each country will forge its own path towards net zero, in line with the twin imperatives of energy security and affordability.

The Green Development Pact, Prime Minister Modi, was a major step forward under India’s G20 presidency. It was an important bridge between the Global South and the North, providing pathways for nations in this critical journey towards achieving energy, climate, environmental, and disaster resilience related objectives.

At COP28 we demonstrated that it is possible, at the global scale, to come to some agreement and to make progress. At the same time, it is evident that we need to do much more, and to put our pledges into practice with the utmost energy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

India and Greece, Greece and India, have something else in common. We see democracy not as an inconvenient barrier to delivering against contemporary challenges, but as our greatest hope of ensuring that we do. Democracy, as was established 2,500 years ago in ancient Athens, is rooted in the conviction that society functions best when all its citizens are equal and have the right to share in the running of the state.

But, as was pointed out in the introduction, we should be under no illusions: democracy is vulnerable and it is facing profound threats. Those who detest our democratic values have one big advantage: they are not bound by those values. We must be alert to the emerging challenges and adaptable enough to address them with real solutions. We must, if necessary, own up to our mistakes. But above all we must listen to each other with mutual respect, without preaching or exhibiting any sense of moral superiority.

But no matter how disparate beliefs and ideologies are in any given society, we need to be able to rely on some basic truths and agree on the facts that at the end of the day shape any democratic discourse. We know that democracy can work best only if all our citizens have the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

Our technological advances, profound as they may be: AI, social media, the Internet itself, need to be tools to facilitate the propagation of information. They must not be weapons against reality.

It is now undeniable that Artificial Intelligence presents a powerful tool for deceptive use at the hands of malicious actors who wish to disrupt democratic elections. No democratic nation, large or small, is immune to this threat.

Government regulation is frequently necessary, and I am very glad that in the European Union we have already agreed on the Artificial Intelligence Act, the first-ever legal framework regulating Artificial Intelligence.

But also the Technology sectors, as the producers of AI need to exercise utmost responsibility, and this is true for all global technology companies. And it is good that they are starting to work on this. I was able to witness it first-hand at the Munich Security Conference last week; there, some of the leading companies of the sector signed an Accord to Combat Deceptive Use of AI in the 2024 Elections.

All these are good steps, but it is clear that it is just the beginning. In the coming years we will need to do more, in order to protect democracy from the many threats that will be launched against it, perhaps already in this very crucial election year.

Today democracy -and that is why this gathering is so important- is about essentially outsmarting those who seek to bend and mis-shape the rule of democratic discourse in their favour.

India and Greece have vital roles to play in achieving that goal, whether at the United Nations -where Greece is seeking a rotating seat on the Security Council next year- at the G20 -which was so expertly chaired by India last year- or through the European Union.

By the way, Greece is supporting the reform of the Security Council of the United Nations in order for leading countries such as India to be represented at the highest table, and in order for their voice to be heard.

But -and here I am referring to all the policymakers who participate- we need your help. Because at the end of the day, effective policy making relies on creative thinking and it flourishes in international fora, such as the one I have the privilege of addressing today.

Prime Minister Modi, Minister Jaishankar, Ladies and gentlemen,

As I conclude, it is worth reflecting on the fact that while Greece and India discovered democracy, and certainly each other, a long time ago, it is today that they are discovering each other again and the success of this cooperation is based on a very simple premise: We both believe in the virtues of discussion and debate. After all, ancient civilisations encouraged this debate and this cross-fertilisation of ideas. And we talk a lot about Artificial Intelligence, but there’s a lot to be learnt about the ancestral intelligence that is hidden in our ancient civilisations. And we recognise that without such debate, the search for truth is meaningless.

This world is increasingly divided, between west and east, between south and north. Greece and India stand essentially at the intersection of these divisions. These divisions can be managed, they can be even tempered, by open discussions.

This is why the world needs a new, you called it a ‘new public square’, I will call it an ‘agora’, the ancient word not just for a marketplace but a new meeting place where ideas can be tested against each other. The ‘Raisina Dialogue’ indeed provides us with that new ‘agora’.

A divided world needs more tangible, and physical connections as well. The integration of our two seas, the Indo-Pacific on the one hand and the Mediterranean on the other, will benefit not just India and Greece but our neighbours too.

Our two peoples have much to learn from each other, and they also have much to give to the world.
If we are to do so with effect, then we must begin today, with a commitment to public discourse, open discussions, tolerance, acceptance of opposite views and the preservation of the democratic ideal.

Thank you very much for listening.