Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ interview to the President of the Observer Research Foundation Samir Saran and on podcast ‘Ideas Pod’, in the framework of the ‘Raisina Dialogue’ conference

Samir Saran: Prime Minister, thank you so much for coming to the ‘Raisina Dialogue’. For us, having Greece at the Dialogue, as you said, in many ways catalyses the spirit of debate. Two old debating societies and the heads of both of them being on the stage for me is a dream come true as a conference organiser. So thank you so much for coming to the ‘Raisina Dialogue’.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you for inviting me. And when Prime Minister Modi was kind enough to offer me an official invitation to India and combine it with an opportunity to address the ‘Raisina Dialogue’, I did not hesitate twice. But I think it is an opportunity to highlight the importance of the debates that do take place at the ‘Raisina Dialogue’. I would like to congratulate you for the incredible progress that this event has made. And I can tell you, as I also told the audience, that a lot of people, certainly in Europe, are very carefully listening to what is being debated here.

Samir Saran: Prime Minister, you also mentioned in your speech, we discovered democracy and each other, and now we are rediscovering each other. What is driving this rediscovery?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, I think that one of the reasons why this discussion is so relevant today is also related to the fact that Greece has emerged stronger from a very profound economic crisis. During the difficult years of the debt crisis, it was sort of inconceivable to talk about the topics that were raised today. At the same time, India has also achieved a remarkable sort of growth leap.

And what I find very interesting in this debate is that both the Indian government and our government, of course, doing things at a very different scale, are democracies that are results oriented. So we focus on delivering on specific targets, growth, rising wages, in your case, delivering basic services to hundreds of millions of people. The digital revolution, which has proven an opportunity to actually leapfrog other countries which thought they were more advanced than both India and Greece when it came to digital infrastructure.

So I think the timing of communicating a message that democracies can actually deliver, at a time when we’ve heard a lot about how maybe authoritarian governments may be better at sort of producing results for their people, and that this is happening at the largest scale possible in India, but also it’s happening in Greece, which many people had written off as essentially a lost case a decade ago. I think the circumstances are very fortuitous, in order for this debate to take place.

Samir Saran: The time is right to now build this relationship. Prime Minister, it would be fair to suggest that in this deeply divided global ecosystem, both Europe and India are seeking their own space. They are seeking their ability to make choices, to make decisions that benefit their people, their economic ambitions, their political security. What can we do together to prevent a new cold war, as it were, or a ‘G-2 world’, as some call it? And how can we both defend the liberal order?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, first of all, recognising that democracies have much in common and need to cooperate is a starting point for this discussion. Of course, all democracies are different, but I think it is sometimes very wrong and inappropriate, I would say, when sort of one democracy preaches another democracy or points a finger at what it should do better. We all know that democracies are work in progress and need to improve. But India is a country of 1.4 billion people and the fact that it is a well functioning democracy is remarkable in its own right, and I think needs to be recognised and needs to be celebrated.

We can trade more. That’s why I’m also a big believer in the free trade agreement between the European Union and India. Not an easy project to conclude, but when you look at a dynamic sort of Indian business community looking at new markets, the European Union should be right there as a priority target. And the same is true for European companies looking to expand.

And then, of course, I think we also need to do more to address the profound global challenges. I mean, the opportunities and threats of AI and of course, climate change.

And it is in the interest, I think, of every country to pursue its own decarbonization path. On the other hand, for us in the developing world, it is also important to recognise some facts that India, for example, accounts for 16% of the world’s population, but only 4% of the total emissions ever emitted. So some consideration to the starting point of each country needs also to be given.

And, of course, we’ve demonstrated that there are ‘win-win’ solutions when it comes to the green transition. We were dependent, for example, on natural gas during the first year of the Ukraine war. We’re faced with very high costs of importing gas. The more electricity we produce from the wind and the sun, the more we make our grids and our electricity systems resilient, the less dependent we will be on energy imports, which is also something that India deeply cares about. And the better the environmental footprint will be of this transition. But, of course, these things do not happen at the flick of a switch.

Samir Saran: So, partnerships on green transitions, partnerships on technology and trade more. I think that’s the ‘mantra’.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: And I would say, also ensure that there is a seat at the table. That’s why I very much insist on the Security Council reforms. Because at the end of the day, this was a system that was created 75 years ago that does not reflect the realities of today’s world.

Samir Saran: Coming back to trade, we have recently seen an ambition by European countries, India, Middle East and even America, for example, to put together the ‘IMEC’ project, a connectivity project that creates a new economic corridor, as it were, a new ‘corridor of prosperity’ for all. How do you see Greece’s role, the role of Greece in this framework? And what could we be doing bilaterally to make this come to life?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, you just look at the map. You have Europe, the Middle East, the Arab peninsula, and you have India and the new connectivity, because these regions have been connected for millennia through trade and cultural and philosophical exchanges. This new connectivity, which is encapsulated in the ‘IMEC’ project, it’s a generational idea that will bring together thriving economies, ensure diversity of supply and be extremely beneficial for our people.

And if you look at the map, Greece is sitting right there as the natural entry point for the ‘IMEC Corridor’ for continental Europe. We have the ports, we have the logistics centre. We’re investing heavily in our trains, in connectivity, and we want to make sure that the goods and services that enter the European Union or even leave the European Union towards the Middle East and India pass through Greece.

For example, I recently visited my friends in the Balkan countries, Bulgaria, Serbia, they’re all very interested in our ports because they see our ports as an exit point for their exports in order for them to reach the global market. So the investment in our critical connectivity infrastructure in Greece is of great importance to us in order to be an integral part of this corridor.

And, of course, the importance of shipping. No matter how you look at it, there will be ships that will be necessary. So safety of maritime transportation, a key sort of priority right now, especially with everything that’s happening in the Red Sea. These are issues which we need to address jointly, because if, for whatever reason, trade is disrupted -and more than 80% of global trade takes place by sea-, then we will both suffer.

Samir Saran: Prime Minister, in our countries, our people relate to each other through folklore, lots of stories, Alexander the Great, Megasthenes, and it’s from time immemorial we have heard of each other. How do we upgrade this people to people connectivity, bring it to the 21st century? How do we, in many ways, engage with the creative sectors? India is a big creative economy, digital economy. Greece, under your leadership, wants to be a digital powerhouse of the future. How do we create employment? How do we create hybrid cultures? How do we create a greater understanding amongst our young people, amongst our people generally.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: First of all, I think it is so encouraging that Greece and India are rediscovering each other and this people to people connectivity is particularly important. It starts with basic things, for example, ensuring that we have a direct flight between India and Greece. You mentioned the creative industries, filming more productions, more films in Greece, not just in Santorini, but across Greece. We have a very attractive incentive scheme to encourage foreign productions to come to Greece and film. More people to people exchanges, more educational exchanges. We’re in the process of opening up our higher education to non-profit, private universities, and this will create new opportunities for educational exchanges and more interaction.

And, of course, as a student of history, I’m a big believer in learning more about our ancient civilizations. And, of course, the story of Alexander the Great still resonates with us. But it goes beyond that. And when I mentioned in my speech this notion of ‘ancestral intelligence’, I do believe that a rediscovery of how the great civilizations thought about complicated problems can only be beneficial to our thinking today.

And for us, it is important because we remember that the world is not only the US and Europe. It’s not only sort of centred around our, sort of what we call the Euro-Atlantic partnership. And this is, I think, a journey of discovery, but also a journey of tolerance and of understanding. I think about the particular historical circumstances of every country. So India. I’ve been to India many times. Every time I discover something new. It’s such a fascinating, such a diverse, such a rich civilization. And the more we in Greece learn about India, the stronger the ties between our two people will become.

Samir Saran: Prime Minister, as we conclude this inaugural ‘Ideas Pod’ for the ‘Raisina 2024’, I have to ask you, as an observer of world affairs, in your view, how has India evolved and changed? And since your coming to office, what is the role of India that now needs to be either appreciated or engaged with by people in different parts of the world?

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I would say two things. First of all, you are the fifth largest economy and you’ll become the third largest economy maybe within the next decade. That in itself is something important. You’re the largest country in the world in terms of population. And as I said, you are a democracy, which in itself is fascinating. Imagine sort of organising elections for almost a billion people.

Samir Saran: It is a celebration here.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It is a celebration, with high participation. And again, these are aspects which make India particularly important.

But at the end of the day, this is not just about values, it’s also about interests. I’m a politician, I want to be practical. It is in our interest to cooperate more. An expanding economy will look for new markets. For example, we want to forge a mobility and migration partnership that will allow maybe for Indians to come in and work in Greece. All these things cannot happen in situations of conflict.

And of course, I think we have an interest in making sure that India’s voice as a protector of the rules-based international order is heard. But it will have to be a slightly different international order. And the fact that India was so successful in organising the G20 that it brought, for example, the African Union on board, is testament to sort of the new role of India, not just as an economic but also as a geopolitical powerhouse.

Samir Saran: Prime Minister, thank you so much for inaugurating the ‘Dialogue’. Thank you so much for speaking at this ‘Ideas Pod’. And while I mentioned it in gest, I really do hope that India and Greece, the two old debating civilizations, can put together ‘arenas’, the ‘agoras’, that can foster conversations among those who don’t agree, so that we could discover a future that belongs to all of us.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Well, we’ll start with ‘Raisina’ in Delphi.

Samir Saran: I’ll be there. Prime Minister, thank you so much.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you. Thank you so much.