India's first contact with Lithuania was through Lithuanian Christian missionaries who traveled to India in the 16th century. Lithuanian interest in India grew in the 19th century after the similarity between Sanskrit and the Lithuanian language was discovered. Among European languages, Lithuanian is grammatically closest to Sanskrit. Lithuanians regard their language to be the oldest living Indo-European language.
Vydūnas, known as the Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo of Lithuania, was interested in Indian philosophy, and created his own philosophical system closely based on the Vedanta. Vydunas stated that Lithuanian spiritual culture, prior to the introduction of Christianity, shared similarities with Hinduism, including the concept of Trinity.
Jewish South African architect Hermann Kallenbach, who was born in the western Lithuanian town of Rusnė, was a close friend and associate of Mahatma Gandhi. The two met in 1904 in South Africa. Kallenbach accompanied Gandhi in his first fast, and his final departure from South Africa to London in 1914. Kallenbach also donated 1,000 acres of land that would later become Tolstoy Farm for satyagrahis in Transvaal. On 2 October 2015, Gandhi's 146th birth anniversary, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius and Indian Minister of State for Agriculture Mohanbhai Kundariya unveiled a statue of Kallenbach and Gandhi in Rusnė. Lithuanian ambassador to India Laimonas Talat-Kelpša remarked, "The monument comes as a testimony to Indo-Lithuanian friendship. Above the many things that connect our two nations, the monument to Gandhi and Kallenbach will tower as a symbol epitomising a single individual's impact on the larger history of mankind. While Gandhi gave the world the concept of non-violent resistance, which Lithuania also successfully employed during its struggle with the Soviet oppression, Kallenbach was pivotal in shaping Gandhi's ideas and testing them in practice. We believe this monument in Rusnė will serve as a powerful reminder that one man also matters in history."
India recognized Lithuania on 9 September 1991, and established diplomatic relations on 25 February 1992. Jagannath Doddamani served as the first ambassador of India to Lithuania (residing in Poland) from 1992 to 1994. The first ambassador of Lithuania to India was Petras Šimeliūnas who served from 2011 to 2012.
The Indian embassy in Warsaw, Poland is jointly accredited to Lithuania. Lithuania opened an embassy in New Delhi on 1 July 2008. In 2005, Indian Foreign Minister K. Natwar Singh stated that India would open an embassy in Lithuania. In July 2014, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevičius urged India to open an embassy in Vilnius. India has not yet opened an embassy in the country, although it opened an honorary consulate in Vilnius on 6 February 2015.
Bilateral trade between the two nations totaled US$117.9 million in 2009, $184 million in 2010 and $203 million in 2011. India's major exports to Lithuania are pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textiles and consumer goods. Lithuania's main exports to India are machinery and mechanical appliances, high tech optical instruments, base metals and articles of base metal, chemicals, sulphur, lime and cement.
There is growing interest in Lithuania for Indian dance and music, yoga, ayurveda, and the works of Rabindranath Tagore. Ayurveda centres function in Vilnius and Kaunas. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is present in Lithuania, and Sai Baba had over 200 devotees in the country, as of 2012. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has sponsored several performances by Indian troupes in Lithuania.
Indian diaspora in Lithuania
As of August 2013, around 300 Indian citizens lived in Lithuania. The majority were students, while the rest were engaged in business activities. Many Indians are employed at the OP Lohia Group's PET plant in Klaipėda. The Indian information technology sector often sends Indian citizens to temporarily work on projects in Lithuania.
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