Poland has lauded India's vaccine diplomacy, with its envoy in Delhi, Adam Burakowski stating, "We are happy that your country is becoming more active, and vaccine diplomacy is very important". Speaking to Wion's Principal Diplomatic Correspondent, Sidhant Sibal, Burakowski hoped the Air Transport bubble between the 2 countries can be started soon, "We have applied for an air bubble with India and we are waiting for a reply, he added." LOT Polish Airlines had started a direct flight between Warsaw and Delhi in September 2019 but this was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
He spoke on several subjects, like Economic and Political ties with India and China and his country's role in Afghanistan. On Afghanistan, the Polish envoy to Delhi, who is also accredited to Kabul said, "We want a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. It is a fantastic country. My dream is that someday Polish tourists can visit Afghanistan". It is interesting to know that Poland prints Afghanistan's currency of 10 and 20 denominations.
Wion: How has co-operation between India and Poland been when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 crisis?
Adam Burakowski : Covid has impacted the whole world in a very negative way. Poland is co-operating with India since the beginning. From the first lockdown in March, we co-operated in rescue flights. A few rescue flights were operated for Polish citizens and Vande Bharat flights were operated for Indian Citizens stranded in Poland. It was a very good example of common co-operation against threats all over the world. Unfortunately, the current situation in entire Europe is much worse than India. There are lockdowns in many countries. In Poland, we have a national quarantine. Many establishments like restaurants and hotels are closed, and if you go to Polish cities, you will not see many people on the streets. This is very hard. We have started a programme on vaccination. We are following the EU program and we are using vaccines accepted by the EU. One of them is AstraZeneca, which is also produced in India, and maybe there will be some co-operation in the future. There is no co-operation as of now as we have already vaccinated one million out of the 38 million Polish population, and we hope it will go smoothly. We hope the lockdown is over soon and we can restore our normal activities and also restore Polish-India ties. India is becoming extremely important in Polish thinking about the world.
Wion: How has the connectivity been between the 2 countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Has there been any transport bubble that has opened?
Adam Burakowski: We had inaugurated direct flights to and from Delhi and Warsaw by LOT Polish Airlines in September 2019. After half a year of this very successful flight connection, the occupancy was over 90% but we had to cancel it because of Coronavirus. Although there were some rescue flights by LOT polish airlines. Presently, we don't operate with passengers, flights operate with cargo to Delhi and Mumbai. We have applied for an air bubble with India and we are waiting for a reply. We hope that when India decides to be more open, Poland and warsaw will be on their list because we are ready to work on strengthening our ties and our co-operation. LOT flight is ready to fly to India at any moment and it will be solved very soon. There are around 4,000 Indian students in Poland and leading Polish universities give programme in the English language. We are still giving student visas so that students can go and start studies and we want to increase this. This will be more easy when we re-open the direct flights.
Wion: How do you see India's vaccine diplomacy and any cooperation on the vaccine front? Any comments on the ongoing tiff between EU and AstraZeneca?
Adam Burakowski: I think India made a very good move to become one of the largest producers of the vaccine in the world. We have observed that India provided vaccine to their neighboring countries, South Asia, and also some countries which are distant. This programme happened quickly and rapidly and is helping many countries and millions of people. We see that the Govt of India has plans to be more active in this field in the world. We are very hopeful that India will play a bigger role. India shares so many values with Poland and Europe. We are happy that your country is becoming more active, and vaccine diplomacy is a very important and very helpful tool for the world. Concerning EU and AstraZeneca, I hope the issue will be resolved very soon. And maybe, more quantity of AstraZeneca will be produced in India, but that is a question that should be asked from the AstraZeneca company. We all hope that the vaccination campaign in the world go smoothly and quickly.
Wion: On ties with India, how do you see the overall relationship when it comes to Europe? Also on China, do you see ties? So overall, India and China, and Poland's ties with both countries. This, even as China has been aggressive with the countries in the region.
Adam Burakowski: China is an important partner to Poland and we have many ties with China, especially economic but not political. We have a totally different political system which is a democratic system. But we co-operate on economics and there is also a train route that takes cargo. We see that the European Union has prepared an agreement on investment with China. We were not so keen to agree on this agreement before some consultations especially with our transatlantic partners, U.S and the new administration of Joe Biden. We strongly advocate transatlantic ties. Regarding India, we hope India will be closer to the European Union as a whole. We have big expectations from the India-EU summit that will take place in Portugal in May this year. Also, in Poland and central European group Visegrád, we want to show that India can also have good and better relations with us, especially regarding economy, students and connectivity. We have some hopes of increasing co-operation with India in the field of Cybersecurity as India-EU dialogue on cyber issues is currently ongoing.
Wion: Poland has played an important role in Afghanistan. If you can elaborate on that?
Adam Burakowski: Poland has always supported Freedom and stability in Afghanistan. Polish soldiers have been part of missions, we have contributed not only militarily but also to development projects. Especially in Ghazni and Northern Areas. We strongly support freedom and stability in Afghanistan, not only support verbally but also in action. We have a Polish military contingent that is part of a resolute support mission. Poland has just printed banknotes for Afghanistan. The banknote of 10 and 20 Afghani Currency. This is also an example of very good co-operation with Afghanistan. We want a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. It is a fantastic country. My dream is that someday Polish tourists can visit Afghanistan and enjoy the atmosphere, the food, the views and the mountains. I hope the Afghan elite can set up some long-lasting solution for peace and stability of the region.