After a long wait, India officially opened its Chancery in Asunción, Paraguay, which will lead to deeper cooperation between the two countries. The official opening of the mission comes amidst the ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan and the continued stand-off between the armies of India and China.
Why is this important?
Paraguay is one of the few countries in the region who accept Taiwan as an independent nation. Incidentally, based on the data available in the public domain, last year Taiwan overtook India as the main Asian destination market for Paraguayan exports. And the administration of the South American nation is very keen to become the strategic partner of India in the region and to work together on various multilateral forums.
The Indian Mission was jointly inaugurated by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Foreign Minister Julio Cesar Arriola on Tuesday (August 22, 2022). He was received during his first ever visit by his counterpart Ambassador Julio César Arriola, and he later called on the President of the Republic of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, at the López Palace.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the visit of Jaishankar to Paraguay started with the inauguration of a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at a waterfront of Asuncion, followed by paying homage at the National Pantheon of Heroes and remembered the sacrifices of Paraguayan national heroes.
Both sides agreed to further strengthen their cooperation in various sectors including trade and commerce, technical and development cooperation, solar energy, MERCOSUR, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and traditional medicines.
Speaking to Financial Express Online from Asunción on condition of anonymity, an expert said “It was clear the interest of both countries is to deepen trade exchanges, including the extension of the current India-Mercosur Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), and greater coordination of positions at the multilateral level.”
However, the expansion process of the existing PTA will have to wait for some time due to elections in Argentina and Brazil.
In 2021-22, Paraguayan exports to Taiwan had overtaken India as the main market in Asia. Experts are hoping with a new fulfleged mission now open, India will regain its position. “In line with what was agreed with PPT Argentina in CELAC, it would be very good to move forward in the organisation of the India-CELAC meeting in the first half of 2023, hopefully with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as President of Brazil and with Brazil finally reintegrated into CELAC,” said the expert quoted above.
Read More: Boosting India-Argentina ties a key expectation from Jaishankar’s visit
Significance of the mission opening
The opening of the mission comes at a time when the two countries are celebrating 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations which began on September 13, 1961 and India celebrated 75 years of its independence.
Highlighting India as an emerging power on a global scale and a regional power in Asia, in his remarks Foreign Minister Julio Cesar Arriola described India as one of the most dynamic economies in the world. “India has experienced tremendous growth in recent years,” he said, adding, “The visit is a reflection that the governments of both countries are keen to strengthen ties and to identify new sectors for expanding cooperation and trade.”
Both countries are working towards increasing investment and support in areas of mutual interests like technology transfer, education, culture, and capacity building, among others.
Also Read: Trade, education, tourism, yoga to get a boost: Indian envoy to Paraguay
Paraguay looks at Pacific
The South American nation is looking to the Pacific as a strategic region where it is keen to explore new markets and to expand its trade cooperation with emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific.
Bioceanic Corridor — ‘Panama of the 21st Century’
This is a Central Bi-Oceanic Railway Corridor — 3,750km of tracks. According to the information available in the public domain this is running from the continent’s western side and all the way to the east. This means it will be connecting two oceans — the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. And the countries involved in the project involve countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, and Paraguay.
Since 2018, India has been keen to be part of this biggest infra project in South America and a commodity corridor. In fact a ministerial delegation had visited Bolivia then to explore opportunities to participate in the project.
Paraguay has been promoting this project and working towards creating conditions that would allow greater economic-commercial exchange with India.
EAM in Paraguay
During talks with his counterpart, both leaders focused on strengthening ties between the two countries and explored new areas to expand trade and cooperation to take advantage of the full potential that the economies of both sides offer.
While reiterating that the new mission will give impetus to the relations between the two countries, Jaishankar also talked about the India-Mercosur PTA. He said that India is exploring how to add more products to the list that has been exchanged.