As well as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the event was attended by the Ambassador of India to Spain, Sunil Lal, and the Director General for North America and Asia-Pacific, Ernesto de Zulueta
Gonzalo de Benito welcomed the participants in the Indian Leaders Programme to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation headquarters at Torres Ágora. Mr de Benito started by stressing the importance that the Ministry places on the Council Foundations as a public-private cooperation platform focused on strengthening bilateral relations in a true “exercise of public diplomacy.”
The Secretary of State praised the excellent opportunities offered by the Indian Leaders Programme in the field of higher education between India and Spain: “We are willing to go further in cooperation among universities, student exchanges and research cooperation.” He also emphasised that “we have implemented a bilingual system in Spanish and English in education and research at several universities and business schools” which will doubtlessly contribute to strengthening bilateral relations in the sector. “Unless the educational system is reinforced, all other investments will eventually fail,” he added.
Gonzalo de Benito introduced the important cultural exchanges taking place between the two countries, such as those related to Spanish language and the film industry, which are helping strengthen relations in areas such as higher education. He emphasised the work of Casa de la India in this regard and, in relation to the increase of Spanish presence in the Indian cultural scene, he highlighted the work done by Instituto Cervantes since it opened in 2009 in Delhi. This centre is among the Cervantes network’s five largest in the world by number of students and DELE exams.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs used the meeting to analyse the excellent bilateral relations between Spain and India and the efforts made by the Government of Spain to improve not only its ties with India, but also with the whole Asian continent. He described India as an “all-important player in the transformation of the world we live in” and “a model democracy for its neighbours, as well as a promising economic power.” Regarding bilateral relations, he gave a brief overview of the increasing ministerial contacts and high-profile visits over the past few years, as evidenced by the visit by President Pratibha Patil Devisingh to Spain in 2009 and the King of Spain’s trip to India with a vast business delegation and five ministers in 2012.