Brazil to lead MERCOSUR talks; Deeper cooperation in defence, space, Ayurveda and agriculture, says India’s envoy to Brazil

By: |
November 5, 2020 12:07 PM

To further strengthen their ties, India and Brazil elevated their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in 2006 and since then the relationship has witnessed an upward trend.

Suresh K Reddy who has in September this year assumed charge as Ambassador of India to Brazil talks with Huma Siddiqui on a wide range of topics.

To further strengthen their ties, India and Brazil elevated their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in 2006 and since then the relationship has witnessed an upward trend. President Jair Bolsonaro was the chief guest at the Republic Day this year. The largest economy in Latin America, Brazil offers a huge market for a wide range of Indian manufactured goods. Also, it is a country with a lot of natural resources and can help India in various sectors especially in agri-tech, bio-energy, pharmaceuticals, oil and defence and space.

Suresh K Reddy who has in September this year assumed charge as Ambassador of India to Brazil talks with Huma Siddiqui on a wide range of topics. Following are excerpts:

The India-MERCOSUR FTA talks are stuck due to political differences between the members of the grouping. Would you be addressing this?

I would like to start by referring to the projections made by the IMF about Brazil. It has stated that it now expects Latin America’s largest economy to shrink by 5.8% this year, much less than the 9.1% contraction it had previously estimated. It further predicts a “partial” recovery with a 2.8% growth next year. It is Brazil which would lead the recovery in Latin America being the largest and most robust economy and inter alia within Mercosur also.

Over the last ten years, Brazil has been the major trade partner for India with a trade of around US$106 billion accounting for almost 25% of total trade with Latin American countries. During this period, the other three partners of Mercosur have also contributed around US$35 Billion, almost 10% of the trade with Latin America. Hence naturally the expansion of our PTA with MERCOSUR will be one of my top priorities. However, within Mercosur, Brazil accounts for almost 68% of our trade. Hence we believe the way forward would be to strengthen India’s economic ties with Brazil in particular and thereby with MERCOSUR.

The Argentine Government decision to withdraw from the on-going trade negotiations of MERCOSUR has indeed impacted the discussions but am glad to inform that Govt. of Argentina has stated it would have no difficulties with Brazil taking the lead and holding discussions with India. Hence Brazil is exploring the way forward in consultation with the other three countries.

The Indian cattle breed “Gir” was behind the white revolution in Brazil. What kind of the programs India and Brazil need to focus increase good cattle’s breed and increase milk production?

Yes, the Indian cattle breed Gir, one of the principal Zebu breeds which originated in India, was bought to Brazil in 1960 and played a key role in the Brazilian milk production. The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) promoted the genetic improvement of the Gir breed (or Gyr as they call it in Brazil) and created mixed breed through artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization. It is estimated that 80% of Brazilian cattle carry genes of Gir breed.

In January 2020, the Brazilian Agriculture Minister Ms Tereza Cristina visited India and met the Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar and Minister of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries Giriraj Singh. They discussed, among other things, opportunities for collaboration in milk production and improvement in cattle breeds through the exchange of germplasm.

India and Brazil have expressed interest in the area of Cattle Genomics and the expeditious implementation of the training programme for Indian professionals in assisted reproductive technology IVF (in-vitro fertilization) between the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying (DAHD) and Embrapa. We also plan to establish a Centre of Excellence in Cattle Genomics at Kalsi, Uttarakhand in India in collaboration with a Brazilian institute. The institute will help improve breeds and production, in addition to helping to increase the profitability of Indian producers.

Another area for cooperation would be in the mutual exchange of germplasm of the cattle breeds. In the livestock field, Brazil is a major producer of bovine genetics and it is estimated that India imports approximately USD 30 million per year of bovine genetic material. The Brazilian side is seeking to expand its participation in the Indian market and to the sale of the genetic material of the Zebu breeds.

Well-known brand motorcycles are already in Brazil. Bajaj Auto 2-wheeler is trying to enter the Brazil market. What are the challenges faced by Indian Auto 2-wheeler manufacturer?

Latin America is the destination to about a quarter of India’s exports of motorcycles, with about USD 450 million of exports in this segment. Brazil is still the largest in Latin America with almost a million units being sold annually but with limited presence of Indian brands.

This is changing and there are Royal Enfield showrooms in many places. In fact, there are Royal Enfield Groups in some cities. The regulatory environment in Brazil makes it easier for companies to have an assembly/manufacturing plant than to export fully assembled units to the country. I hope to see an increase in presence of Indian companies and Bikes in Brazil in the coming years.

Agriculture is the Primary Sector and it contributes to the GDP of both India and Brazil. How can technology help to build-up both the countries business relation in the agriculture field?

Brazilian Agriculture industry is known for its value addition achieved in the last few decades. The sector has grown to transform Brazil from a net food importer to second largest agri-exporter in the world. Brazil is now home to some of the largest agribusiness firms in the world.

This has lead to a sharp growth in Agritec with more than 1100 Agtech companies in the market. There is an incredible range covering “before the farms” (inputs), “inside the farms” and “after the farm” solutions covering each and every stage from farm to table. Piracicaba (São Paulo), often referred to as “Piracicaba Valley” in an allusion to Silicon Valley, has developed as an agribusiness hub.

I believe we can benefit from cooperation with start-ups in India, especially Agtechstart-ups in Brazil. There are untapped synergies between Start-up ecosystems in both countries, with technologies that can help transform our agricultural sector, and contribute to our objective of doubling our farmers’ income.

Last year, India and Brazil launched a first-of-its-kind cross-border agritech incubation programme, Maitri 2019, where five agritech startups from India and Brazil will be participating in the startup exchange programme. The selected Agritechs will be a part of a six-month program in India and Brazil, where they will get to experience workshops, networking events and mentorship opportunities, as well as pitch ideas to investors and other stakeholders in both countries.

India is known as Pharmaceutical hub in the world and is doing good in Brazil and is also known for “Ayurveda Medicine”. In Brazil, there is a tremendous amount of regard for India’s spirituality and culture, particularly Yoga. Can there be more MoU between Indian and Brazilian medical education universities?

Yoga, Ayurveda, and spirituality (Vedanta philosophy) are three areas in the cultural sphere, which have witnessed increasing interest and following in Brazil in recent years. While India is the home to the ancient medicine system of Ayurveda, Brazil, on the other hand, is a rich bio-diverse nation with some untapped and unexplored natural resources, creating areas of research, experimentation & collaboration in the field of Ayurveda.

During the visit of President Bolsonaro to India in January 2020, Ministry of AYUSH had signed an MOU with Brazilian Ministry of Health on cooperation in the field of traditional systems of medicine and homoeopathy. I feel Brazil may open doors for India to be able to import the Ayurveda medicines and also benefit from this ancient science.

We are creating new linkages between educational and scientific institutions to complement and strengthen this cooperation. There are already some MoUs in place, the one between Federal University of Rio De Janeiro & Ministry of AYUSH in Homeopathy or the MoU between Gujarat Ayurveda University & Escola De Ayurveda, Brazil on cooperation & collaboration in the field of Ayurveda.

One promising collaboration is Tripartite MoU being finalized between All India Institute of Ayurveda, Government of India, Future Vision Institute, Sao Paulo and University of Sao Paulo Medical School for scientific research into Ayurveda benefits. Similar discussions are also underway for the signing of MoU between Ministry of AYUSH and Federal University of São Paulo.

In the last few years, there has also been a significant increase in the number of students travelling to India to study Ayurveda, either through the scholarships scheme offered by the Indian government or in a personal capacity. These are all positive indicators of a rewarding relationship between the two countries, especially when it comes to traditional medicine.

What is the tremendous scope for the spread of Ayurveda in Brazil?

Ayurveda is increasingly gaining popularity in Brazil with an estimated 3000 Ayurveda trained therapists working all over the country. Inclusion of Ayurveda as an Integrative and Complementary health practice in the Unified Health System of Brazil inMarch 2017 has further contributed to enhanced interest in the Ayurvedic health care practices and medicines.

Several annual Ayurveda conferences are held across Brazil, which includes the International Ayurveda Conference, held in Rio De Janeiro & Latin American Ayurveda Conference (ELAA) held every year in Sao Paulo to name a few. Recently, the Ayurveda practitioners of India and Brazil came together for the International Ayurveda Congress – CONAYUR to discuss the best health care practices in India and Brazil. Such conferences and dialogues are helpful in enhancing the acceptance of Ayurveda in Brazil.

As I mentioned earlier, we are also collaborating with Brazilian institutions in scientific research and validation of benefits of Ayurvedic practices. Research institutions in Brazil and India are exploring collaboration in the efficacy of Ayurvedic interventions in the management of Covid-19.

We are working closely with the Ministry of AYUSH and MoH of Brazil to create a stronger platform for promotion of Ayurveda including by addressing regulatory issues in cooperation with ANVISA.

Space Cooperation – the launch of a satellite has been pushed to next year – do you think there are opportunities for the private sector companies to work together in this sector.

India and Brazil have been actively collaborating in the area of space. The indigenously developed Brazilian Remote Sensing Satellite, Amazonia-I is slated to be launched on a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) of ISRO in early next year.

The Government’s decision announced in May early this year to let the private sector participate “in the entire range of space activities” from satellite-based service provision to rocket launches and establishment of IN-SPACe, along with NSIL(NewSpace India Limited) will certainly introduce a new area of engagement between the private sector on both sides.

We are looking at a new approach to collaboration in the space sector which could include space supply chains, space mining, application of space technologies in agriculture etc. Further once the TSA signed by Brazil with the USA last year gets ratified, we are looking at growth in commercial launches from Brazil and associated supply chain opportunities also as the Alcantra is rated to be one of the most ideal locations for launching rockets.

The defence is another sector; the government has been pushing for exports to countries. What are your thoughts on this?

Defence co-operation is one of the main pillars of our strategic partnership with Brazil. As both sides have robust defence industrial capabilities, we have identified defence industrial cooperation as a thrust area for cooperation. A large delegation of defence industry representatives had also visited India during the visit of the Brazilian President’s State visit to India.

The new Defence Manufacturing Policy announced by the government earlier this year has certainly brought this area of cooperation into focus. In the recent past, two major Brazilian defence companies have entered into joint ventures with Indian companies; the first one, CBC, is the largest small and medium calibre ammunition manufacturer of Brazil and now has a Joint Venture with SSS Defence (Stumpp Schuele&Somappa) of India, and this Joint Venture will produce ammunition in India. The other is a Joint Venture between Taurus Armas, the largest manufacturer of small arms in Brazil, and Jindal Steel. These two projects will contribute significantly to the Make in India initiative under the new Defence Manufacturing Policy.

We are also working to finalise an MoU on defence industrial cooperation which eventually would also promote joint R&D. In parallel, SIDM (Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers), and ABIMDE (Association of Brazilian Defence and Security Manufacturers) have also signed an MoU for defence industrial cooperation recently. The endeavour is to promote opportunities for defence manufacturers in respective regions.

Our focus is also on large scale participation of defence industries of both countries in the regional defence exhibitions, Aero India and LAAD (Latin America Aero Defence) which will surely provide excellent opportunities to respective stakeholders to take the initiative forward.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1India to host SCO meet next week: Trade, economic cooperation to be the focus
2S Jaishankar reaches Seychelles on last leg of his three-nation tour
3India, Sri Lanka and Maldives to discuss security concerns; Maritime Cooperation also on agenda