Even as China has announced a massive $250-billion investment in South America over 10 years, India is stepping up a major trade and investment plan to boost ties with Latin America. As part of this plan, there will be several high-level visits in next few months to South America, starting with a week-long trip of minister of state for external affairs Gen (retd) VK Singh to Ecuador, Venezuela and Gautemala from Monday.
Meanwhile, a high-level meeting of the foreign ministers of the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj next month in Washington DC is being finalised.
Leaders from both sides will discuss important regional and multilateral issues, including India’s engagement with CELAC and Central American Integration System (SICA).
Besides inaugurating an IT Center in Ecuador, set up with the help of India, Singh will hold bilateral talks with senior leaders of the country.
Also on the agenda would be expansion of the trade basket with Ecuador, which offers privilege location, extended production diversity, potential in agri-business, fishery, aquaculture, forestry, mining, tourism and services and favourable legislation towards foreign investment, preferential commercial access to different markets and US dollar as official currency.
Besides, oil, defence and pharma, the Indian side will also discuss buying gold and silver from Ecuador which has gold reserves of 225 tonne, silver rserves of 12.5 tonne, and produces 350 barrel oil per day. India’s public sector company ONGC Videsh also has a presence there. Private sector companies from India have evinced interest in many sectors including forestry and agriculture.
In Venezuela, besides the bilateral talks the two sides will also discuss India’s energy needs, before leaving for Guatemala for participating in the SICA. Also, Venezuela has expressed interest in buying BrahMos missile. These issues are liekly to be taken up during Singh’s meeting with senior leaders of the country.
India’s pace of engagement with Latin America is slower than China. Earlier this year, Beijing held the first ministerial-level forum with 33-member CELAC members, during which China projected that the two-way trade could double over the next decade to $500 billion, while Chinese investment may touch $250 billion.