By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Bollywood icons, particularly Raj Kapoor and Nargis, may be viewed as actors of the past by Indian society, they still remain a favorite in Azerbaijan. This was revealed by members of Azerbaijani delegation who were in India last week. Led by Huseyn Bagirov, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, the delegation was here for the first meeting of India-Azerbaijan Intergovernmental Commission, which was held on 26th November. The Indian side was led by Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jyotiraditya M. Scindia. Though held after being postponed a few times, the meeting is viewed by both sides as a major milestone in strengthening India-Azerbaijan ties. On sidelines of the meeting, members from both sides dismissed the delay in the meeting as an insignificant issue. Rather, they gave emphasis to the meeting being held, which they were â€œabsolutely confidentâ€ would enhance their bilateral ties.
During their meeting, held in â€œan atmosphere of mutual understanding and traditional friendship,â€ the two sides â€œexchanged information on the current economic situation in their respective countries and opportunities that exist for further development of bilateral economic relationship,â€ sources said. They agreed to deliberate on measures to be â€œundertaken to increase the volume of bilateral trade on a balanced basis and to widen the trade basket of bilateral trade for mutual benefit.â€ India is keen on entering into a long term contract with Azerbaijan for supply of crude oil, sources said.
India and Azerbaijan agreed â€œto develop economic tiesâ€ and explore â€œopportunities of implementation of mutual investment projects.â€ They aim to create a â€œfriendly and positive atmosphere among businessmen of the two countries and contribute to enhancing mutual trade relations,â€ sources said.â€ The two sides decided to through â€œmutual diplomatic channelsâ€ develop â€œcooperation in field of oil-chemistry industry, especially oil treatment,â€ enhance technical cooperation and find possibilities for exchange of views in the field of agriculture, and explore opportunities for participation of Azerbaijan at workshops and trainings organized by Indiaâ€™s International Technical Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program and other technical assistance programs.
India and Azerbaijan also touched on issues such as their membership of International North-South transport corridor (INSTC). They expressed the need to â€œmake joint efforts towards identifying issues and impediments in the smooth functioning of the Corridor and to further develop their relations in the area of transportation,â€ sources said. With Azerbaijan well endowed with good reserves of non-ferrous minerals like gold, aluminum, zinc, copper, molybdenum, chrome, rock salt, gypsum, limestone, bitumen, clay, marble, etc, they also viewed cooperation in the field of non-ferrous metallurgy as â€œmutually beneficial,â€ sources said
In the field of Communication & Information Technology, as India plays a leading role, the two sides deliberated on inking an agreement on bilateral cooperation. The delegates also agreed on their being â€œpotentialâ€ for strengthening bilateral ties by expanding cooperation in areas such as agriculture, tourism, environment protection, health, education, customs issue, chemical & petrochemical sector and the engineering industry.
Ironically, though the meeting is viewed as a major beginning towards developing stronger bilateral ties between India and Azerbaijan at the diplomatic level, it served as an eye-opener to strong cultural and historical ties between the two countries. On sidelines of the meeting, the Azerbaijani members drew attention to the traditional folklore Laila-Majnu, on which several Hindi movies have been made. It can be traced to Azerbaijan, with Nizami Ganjavi, known as the greatest Azerbaijani poet, who lived in 12th century, having begun a new trend in poetry- the epic-romantic genre. The historic linkage is also marked by Azerbaijani-origins of Babur, the founder of Mughal dynasty in India. The outstanding monuments constructed during the Mughal period, include the Humayun tomb in Delhi. The architect of the tomb was from Azerbaijan.
What is perhaps most amazing is that cultural linkage between people of the two countries remains strong. Bollywood movies and film-stars are extremely popular in Azerbaijan. It was a pleasant surprise to find the visiting Azerbaijani delegates enjoying Hindi film songs being sung at a reception hosted in their honor by their countryâ€™s envoy to India, Tamerlan Karayev. Even though for several Azerbaijani delegates, it was a first visit to India, they seemed fairly familiar with Hindi movies as they easily voiced the names of films from which the various songs were being played. Elshad Nassirov, Vice President, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, who has been to India before, revealed that amongst the most popular names used in his country, were Indian names, including that of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and film star Nargis. In his words: â€œYou will find quite a few Indiras in Azerbaijan. It is a popular name there. So is Nargis. My wifeâ€™s name is Nargis.â€
Muslims constitute more than ninety percent of Azerbaijanâ€™s population. Earlier, a part of former superpower Soviet Union, Azerbaijan declared its independence on 18th October 1991. India recognized Azerbaijan in December 1991 and established diplomatic ties with it on 28th February 1992.
Notwithstanding the diplomatic formalities taking their own time in strengthening cooperation between India and Azerbaijan at the official level, there is little doubt that people have let their cultural ties remain undisturbed. While Laila-Majnu, Shireen-Farhad and other romantic folklores traced to Azerbaijan remain popular here, Bollywood superstars, including Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan are a favorite there!