India was one of the first countries to recognize independence of Malta in 1964 and established diplomatic relations with it in 1965. Although Malta is a small country, with population of 4.15 lakhs, the island’s accession to the EU on May 1, 2004, has brought about a shift in its global profile. With a view to bring its policies in line with EU positions, Malta has quit NAM as well as G-77. However, Malta continues to attach high degree of importance to Commonwealth, and hosted the CHOGM Summit in November 2005 and is likely to host it again in 2015. Malta also attaches considerable importance to the Mediterranean dimension, and is a member of the 5+5 Dialogue.
Malta has been concurrently accredited to Libya even though the Assistant High Commission of India in Malta was opened in 1993, however, on grounds of economy, the Government closed down the Post in 2002. India has also appointed an Honorary Consul in Malta. Malta opened its High Commission in Delhi in July 2007 and has appointed a resident High Commissioner. It also has Honorary Consuls in Mumbai and Chennai. During the visit of Maltese goodwill delegation of Parliamentarians in March 2007, the Maltese side had expressed the hope that India would reopen its Mission in Malta. Malta is keen on India’s reopening its resident diplomatic Mission in Malta.
India -Malta bilateral relations on the whole have been friendly. There have been a few high level visits between the two countries. From the Maltese side, Prime Minister Dr. Edward Fenech Adami visited India in 1989. President of Malta, Dr. CensuTabone had visited India in January 1992. From the Indian side, President R. Venkataraman had visited Malta in 1990.
The Foreign Minister of Malta, Dr. Michael Frendo, visited India in March 2005. In his meeting with EAM, the two leaders reviewed bilateral relations. A Protocol for Foreign Office Consultations between India and Malta was also signed. The Maltese FM also met the Commerce Minister. India’s former Minister for Commerce & Industry, Shri Kamal Nath, visited Malta as Head of Indian delegation to GHOGM in November 2005.
The Chief Justice of Malta, Mr. Vincent A De Gaetano, visited India in mid-December 2006 to participate in a Conference of Jurists in Lucknow. He had a one-to-one meeting with the then Chief Justice of India.
Foreign Minister of Malta, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Steering Committee of Commonwealth Connects [on bridging the digital divide], visited India to take part in Commonwealth Connects 2007- e-Partnership Summit held on March 23-24, 2007 in New Delhi.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Malta, Dr. Tonio Borg visited India during January 6-11, 2010. He met EAM and Minister of State for External Affairs (PK) and also delivered a talk at the Supreme Court Bar Association. During the trip he formally inaugurated the Maltese High Commission in New Delhi (established in 2007) and also the Honorary Consulate of Malta in Chennai.
A two-member Indian Shipping delegation led by Secretary (Shipping) visited Malta to explore the opportunities for cooperation in the Shipping sector between India and Malta. The delegation visited various shipping facilities including Malta Transport Centre in July 2010. The Dean of Foreign Service Institute visited Malta in September 2010 to participate in the 38th Annual Meeting of Deans and Directors of Diplomatic Academies and Institutes of International Relations.
An Indian CBDT delegation participated in the 33rd Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) Technical Conference from 14-19 October in Floriana. Shri Hardeep Puri, Permanent Representative of India to UN attended a UN meet in Valetta., Minister of State for External Affairs (PK) paid a four day official visit to Malta from 7th to 10th April, 2013. A Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was signed between the two countries during the visit.
A two member delegation of ONGC Videsh Ltd. visited Malta in the month of August 2013 to explore hydrocarbons potential in Malta. This was followed by the visit of a 2 member technical delegation.
A delegation composed of 11 school principals from different States in India visited Malta in September 2013 and met with senior officials from the Maltese Ministry of Education as well as with senior officials from the University of Malta to explore areas of mutual interest and cooperation through collaborative exchanges.
On October 31, 2013 Director General level Foreign Office consultations were held between India and Malta in New Delhi. Also the Maltese Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. George Vella visited India to attend ASEM meeting in November 2013. A MoU for Waiver of Visas for Holders of Diplomatic passports was signed during the visit.
In 2013 Malta supported India’s candidature of Shri Shashi Kant Sharma, Comptroller and Auditor General of India to the UN Board of Auditors, elections for which were held during 68th session of UNGA in November 2013 and as a reciprocal measure India supported Malta’s candidature for the election to the International Maritime Organization Category C at International Maritime Organization Assembly also held in Nov. December 2013.
A two-member delegation led by Shri Rajat Bansal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance visited Malta to attend the meeting of the Peer Review Group of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes on 17-21 March, 2014
Shri Shashi Kant Sharma, Comptroller & Audit General of India led a two-member delegation to Malta to attend the 22nd conference of the Commonwealth Auditors General Meeting on 24-27 March, 2014.
A 37-member student faculty delegation from schools in Bangalore, Delhi and Jammu visited Malta from 24 April 2014 for a week long orientation under an exchange programme.
Malta also supported India’s candidature to the re-election to the Human Right’s Council at the elections held in October 2014.
Exchange of Parliamentary visits
A five-member goodwill Parliamentary delegation headed by the Hon’ble Jason Azzopardi, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs visited India from March 12-17, 2007 at the invitation by Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs of India. The delegation called on the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, MOS for External Affairs, and MOS for Information Technology. It also had meetings with Chairmen of our Committees on External Affairs and Information Technology. Speaker of the Maltese Parliament, Mr. Louis Galea visited India for the Commonwealth Speaker's meeting from January 4-8, 2010.
Visit of Indian Survey Ship Darshak
The Indian survey ship INS Darshak paid a three day goodwill visit to Malta in 2002. The ship was under the command of Capt. Sulsi Sridhar Karnik. It was 86 metres long and has a complement of 200 officers and crew. The ship was opened to the public on 28 April from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m.
Visit of Indian Naval Ship Tarangini
INS Tarangini visited Malta among other countries, from February 26- March 1, 2007. The visit was prominently featured in the media and was a great success. The reception on board was amongst others attended by Foreign Minister of Malta and members of Maltese Indian community.
The cultural relations between India and Malta have been old. A Cultural Cooperation Agreement between the both countries was signed in 1992. A Cultural Troupe comprising classical Dancer (Kuchipudi) Ms. Vyjayanthi Kashi and Violinist Ms. Anupriya Deotale, visited Malta in July 2008. ”Days of India” were organized from 2-6thOct., 2013 which included performance by a 10 member Indian folk dance troupe, film & food festival and an exhibition on Gandhi ji. Dr Anglu Farrugia, Speaker of Maltese Parliament inaugurated the celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. Also Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Economy among various other dignitaries attended the ‘Gala dinner and Dance’ performances. In June 2014, an Indian film festival was organized in Malta.
Malta is a member of Commonwealth. In connection with the XIX Commonwealth Games, the Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) on its routing through 70 nations and territories of the Commonwealth transited in Malta on 4-8 December, 2009. On its arrival in Malta, Ambassador and members from the Mission were present in Malta. Baton was taken to different Maltese schools and wider publicity was arranged for this event. During the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi from 3-14 October, Malta participated in the Games.
During the visit of Maltese President in 1992, two agreements, one on Cultural Cooperation and the other on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, were signed. The second agreement provides for meeting of the Joint Commission. A MoU in Power sector was signed in 1992 and under this BHEL representative in Libya visited Malta in November 2009 and made presentation on solar-energy projects and small thermal plants to the Ministry of Resources in Malta. A Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement was signed during Smt. Preneet Kaur, Minister of State for External Affairs’s visit to Malta in April, 2013. A MoU for Waiver of Visas for Holders of Diplomatic passports was signed in November 2013 during the visit of the Maltese Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. George Vella to New Delhi to attend the ASEM 2013.
Bilateral trade between India and Malta has witnessed a phenomenal growth in recent years. During 2013-14 the bilateral trade stood at US $ 202.45 million. India’s exports to Malta were US$ 168 million whereas imports from Malta were US$34.45 million. During the period April – August, 2014, India’s exports to Malta were of value US$ 132.2.million whereas imports from Malta were to the tune of US$ 191.1 million. The main items of India’s exports to Malta are marine products, drugs, pharmaceutical & fine chemicals, inorganic/organic/agro chemicals, metals, transport equipment, and other commodities. The main items of India’s imports from Malta are pulp and waste paper, metal scrap, organic chemicals, medicinal & pharmaceutical products and electronic goods.
A high level business delegation from Malta visited India to explore business opportunities and attract investments into Malta in late November 2009. The delegation participated in business meetings/seminar organized by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). Focus of the visiting delegation was cooperation in sectors like tourism, information & communication technology, health, maritime, financial services and film production. Malta Chamber of Commerce and CII also signed two MOUs on cooperation. Indian pharmaceutical company, Aurobindo Pharma which established its first European GMP certified facility in Malta in 2008 launched its products in the Maltese market in October 2010 and has since further expanded its operations and acquisitions. OVL sent a team to explore opportunities in hydrocarbon sector.
In April 2014, a high level CEOs delegation led by CII visited Malta at the invitation of Malta Enterprise to scout for business opportunities.Most of Indian businessmen were able to establish viable commercial contact. CII and Malta Enterprise also signed a MoU for cooperation
Areas of mutual interests:
Malta is focusing on six specific areas and has set targets to be achieved by 2015. The Maltese Prime Minister has suggested that India could be Malta’s partner in the development of these identified areas.
Financial Services: Malta is strong in the financial services sector and has one of the best financial infrastructure, expertise and investors-friendly tax system in Europe. Malta provides excellent location for Indian IT and Financial Services because of its strategic location and availability of skilled manpower. An Indian company I-flex, computerized the operations of Malta's Central Bank.
ICT: Malta recognizes India's strength in Information and Communications Technology sector. Malta has opened a Smart city project in 2009 similar to the project being set up in Kerala. There could be synergy between these two projects. Maltese side has suggested the ' cloud' concept through which India, EU and North Africa could be virtually networked.
Tourism: Although for Malta Europe, has been a favoured tourism destination, an increasing number of Maltese are going to other tourist destinations and there is potential to promote India as a tourism option in Malta, and vice versa.
Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector especially pharmaceutical sector could be potential area for the cooperation as Maltese patent laws provide an advantage over other EU countries. The health care is another promising area for bilateral cooperation. An Indian company, Aurobindo Pharma has set up its plant in Malta in April 2009.
Education: Malta has some of the oldest universities in the region including institutes for specialized training in areas such as maritime sector, diplomatic studies, management education etc. Universities/institutes of the two countries could consider cooperation.
Shipping: Malta has one of the best free port facilities and shipping service sector in the region. Malta is strategically located in Mediterranean region for locating warehouses to re-ship Indian goods to North Africa and EU.
Even though some Maltese-Indians trace their roots in Malta to 1890s, the Indian community has remained small and is no more than 100 strong. Almost all of them have Maltese nationality. They are mostly engaged in business of textiles, and food industry. There are also some Indian students studying in Malta. Malta has extended full cooperation during the evacuation of Indians from Libya in 2011 and again in August 2014.