LIMA/HAVANA: Marking an upsurge in its Latin America diplomacy, India has signed four pacts with Peru, including one on defence cooperation, and outlined trade, development and innovation as the trinity that will frame its burgeoning engagement with the region that is rapidly emerging a new growth pole in the world.
Seeking to push the envelope for bilateral relations, India and Peru, an influential player in the groupings of the Latin America and Caribbean region, unveiled a slew of initiatives, including the setting up of a joint commission that envisages an annual meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries to appraise and map an ambitious agenda for expanding bilateral ties. The two countries also decided to step up coordination on international issues, including the UN reforms and trans-national terrorism. They underlined mutual support of candidatures presented in international organizations, with Peru reaffirming support for a permanent seat for India in an expanded UN Security Council.
The agreements were signed October 28 on the last day of India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to Peru, a high point of the golden jubilee celebrations of the establishment of diplomatic ties between New Delhi and the resource-rich rapidly growing economy. Ansari headed to Havana after his trip to Peru, where he began his visit with inaugurating a ‘Festival of India,’ that included a dazzling performance of a fusion of six classical Indian dance forms, which drew a record number of Cubans itching to get a glimpse of the Indian culture.
In Lima, Ansari held talks with the top leadership, including President Ollanta Humala Tasso and First Vice-President Marisol Espinoza. The pacts encompassed an important agreement on defence cooperation that signalled a new thrust in India’s engagement with the region – deepening of security cooperation in the backdrop of emerging cross-cutting conventional and non-conventional security threats, including terrorism, piracy, drug-trafficking and non-proliferation. The Peruvians were keen on training for their defence personnel in India and slots had been offered in the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, said Dinkar Khullar, Secretary (West) in India’s external affairs ministry. He added that as Peruvians had large Russian military equipment, they were looking forward to India being able to supply spares.
Trade, knowledge and Innovation
With the world keen to tap India’s prowess in knowledge industries, New Delhi also signed two pacts with Lima to widen cooperation in the field of education, research and innovation. The pact on education, signed by India’s Minister of State for Human Resource Development Jitin Prasada and Peru’s Foreign Minister Eda Rivas Franchini, envisages exchange of research material, organization of joint conferences, the twining of institutions, setting up chairs of contemporary studies and providing scholarships for higher education.
Raising the bar for economic relations was an important outcome of the latest round of India-Peru talks. Bilateral trade between India and Peru, Latin America’s sixth largest economy and the world’s largest producer of silver, has gone up to over $1 billion, but both sides are determined to scale it to new heights. This economic synergy was telescoped in the launch of the Indian Chambers of Commerce (INCHAM) in Lima and an in-principle decision to explore modalities for launching negotiations for a Free Trade Area agreement. The FTA could prove to be a game-changer of sorts for India in a country where China, aided by its massive state-owned enterprises, has made rapid foray. China has already sealed an FTA with Peru.
Another are that will see enhanced consultation in days to come is the issue of inclusive growth and development. The sharpening socio-economic inequalities in both India and Peru have challenged the governments and policy-makers in both countries to look for innovative strategies to promote balanced growth and the sharing of experiences in this area will certainly help. Against this backdrop, the two countries are poised to step up cooperation in the application of information technologies and technological innovation to increase development opportunities in the use of science for equality and social and digital inclusion in Peru. The Peruvian government eagerly embraced India’s willingness to cooperate in the exchange of experience and good practices necessary to implement projects under the Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development programme. India, on its part, assured Peru that it was fast-tracking the completion of the Centre of Excellence in Information Technology, which will open new opportunities for the Peruvian people.
The Way Ahead
Ansari’s visit has ended “a period of relative quiet,” in India-Peru relations, as Dinkar Khullar, India’s seniormost diplomat handling the region, said it aptly, and has set the stage for multi-pronged acceleration in bilateral ties not just with Peru, but with the dynamic region, which is becoming a nucleus of growth and new experiments in promoting inclusive development. The next important moment in India-Peru relations will be when Peruvian President Ollanta Humala visits India. Mr Khullar said that the invitation was extended by the vice-president and dates will be finalized through diplomatic channels.
- 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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