Distances never came in the way of love affairs from blossoming or diplomacy’s perennial drive to interlink dreams and destines. Invoking India’s sage poet Rabindranath Tagore and Pablo Neruda, the beloved poet of desire, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a multi-pronged Latin America charm offensive to deepen New Delhi’s engagement with this emerging growth pole of the world.
In a well-received speech in Brasilia at the BRICS’ outreach meeting with the leaders of South American countries July 16, Mr Modi offered an exhilarating brew of trade, IT, tele-medicine and capacity building to South America, which he called
“this great continent; of beauty, opportunities and warm people.”
In the first BRICS’ outreach meeting with the leaders of BRICS countries, the Itamaraty palace in Brasilia sparkled with the presence of a host of leaders from South America, including those from Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay.
Mr Modi summed up the spirit of the BRICS’ outreach to this continent amid growing global economic uncertainty.
“Our discussions should throw up new ideas for partnership between BRICS and South America. BRICS nations have already started a new chapter in this with the BRICS New Development Bank. This will open up newer opportunities of cooperation,” he told leaders from South America,” said Modi.
He added that South America has become an important pillar of the global economy. And given its tremendous potential, “it would be a crucial for global prosperity” especially at a time of economic uncertainty.” The region, touted as “the next big thing,” boasts a combined GDP of nearly 5 trillion dollars.
In a globalised and inter-connected world, our destinies are inter-linked, he said, and passionately refuted the argument about continental distances have inhibited India’s relations with Latin America from reaching its full potential. “Distance is not a barrier to opportunities. It also does not, insulate us from challenges in other parts of the world.”
“I firmly believe, the possibilities of cooperation are limited not by distance but only by our imagination and efforts. We have much to learn from each other, in our journey towards inclusive and sustainable development.”
Alluding ties of his home state Gujarat which he helmed as the chief minister for over a decade, the prime minister recalled that ages ago, the Gir cow made its way from Gujarat, all the way to Brazil. “Today Gujarat accounts for more than half of India’s trade, with this wonderful continent.”
B for Business
Bilateral trade between India and Latin America has surged from a few hundred million dollars in the 1990s to 42 billion USD in 2013. Experts say this figure could easily go up to $100 billion if the leaders of both sides blend proactive diplomacy, address issues like enhancing connectivity and leverage multifarious win-win opportunities in a host of areas, including energy, agriculture, food processing, textiles, transport and IT.
Looking ahead, he outlined an entire spectrum of opportunities in areas ranging from hydrocarbons to pharma, textiles to leather, engineering goods to automobiles. He exhorted the two sides to capitalise on the Preferential Trade Agreement between India and the MERCOSUR Trade Block, and Chile, more effectively.
Mixing diplomacy and business with culture and poetry, he alluded to robust ties between the peoples of the two region, that is home to a large number of Indians, who act as a strong bridge of friendship, between India and countries in the region. “Authors and poets, like Octavio Paz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda are popular in India. Similarly, our national poet, Rabindranath Tagore, is widely loved here.” “This is simply amazing, the way in which Latin Americans in general and Brazilians in particular have embraced Indian philosophy. There is Sai Baba, there is ISKCON, and there is whole lot of yoga centres and tremendous love for Indian music and Indian dance,” Amitava Tripathi, India’s former ambassador to Brazil, said in an interview with India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org)
The Road Ahead
The meeting with a host of South American leaders at one place, so early in his tenure, promises to scale up India’s ties with the region, which has been described by some analysts as the last frontier for India’s diplomacy.
Mapping the road ahead, the prime minister assured the South American leaders that India would work closely with South America at all levels of engagement including bi-laterally, at the G-77 and other international forums.
Knowledge is Power
Innovation and knowledge-driven partnership is the way to go. “We must share with each other, our experiences, best practices and innovative solutions. India stands committed to the same.”
The prime minister assured South American leaders that India will establish Centres of Excellence in Information Technology, in South American countries. He also offered India’s expertise in areas like tele-medicine, tele-education and e-governance, space capabilities, for weather forecasting, resource mapping and disaster management.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, a portal and e-magazine-journal focused on international affairs, emerging powers and the India Story. He in Brazil to report and analyse the sixth BRICS summit for India Writes Network)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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