India heads to LAC region again; focus on food, energy security and defence cooperation | The Financial Express

India heads to LAC region again; focus on food, energy security and defence cooperation

Meenakshi Lekhi is travelling to Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, and Guatemala starting January 13-20, 2023. This will be her first ever visit to these countries in the Caribbean as well as South and Central America.

India heads to LAC region again; focus on food, energy security and defence cooperation
This will be Lekhi's first ever visit to the Caribbean as well as South and Central American region. (File/IE)

With India looking to expand its energy import basket, as well its defence exports, Indian Minister of State, Meenakshi Lekhi is travelling to Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, and Guatemala starting January 13-20, 2023. This will be her first ever visit to these countries in the Caribbean as well as South and Central America.

During her visit to the island nation Cuba (Jan 13-14) is expected to call on the President of Cuba and she will also have a meeting with the Speaker of National Assembly and Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Culture.

Last year in June Saurabh Kumar Secretary (East) Ministry of External Affairs was in the island nation and India had extended a Line of Credit agreement worth 100 million euro. This was for procurement of rice from India to help with the food crisis in that country.


In an interaction with Financial Express Online, Dr Asif Iqbal, President of Indian Economic Trade Organisation (IETO) says “India can benefit from their Cuba relations as many NRIs explore that country for tourism and recently Biden administration has reversed some Trump-era policies on Cuba – including resuming flights as well as facilitating family reunification– and restored engagement on select issues.”

 “What can happen in this scenario however is the enactment of a robust policy of engagement and the implementation of measures that can foster sustainable change in the island. India is looking at financial participation of their banking so it can take a big leap when things open up,” Dr Iqbal opines.

Already the Cuban Central Bank delegation that visited India a few weeks ago expressed serious interest and IETO facilitated meetings with NCPI and BHIM payment system.

How does this help?

“This will give India an edge on addressing this currency crisis. The main focus was during the COVID times when the pharma companies from Cuba joined up with Indian companies to collaborate on strategic partnerships. The visit of MOS is a great step ahead as a cultural bridge is being established,” president of IETO explained.

India and Guatemala

Minister Lekhi is scheduled to visit the Central American nation Guatemala from January 15-17. According to the MEA she will call on the President and the Vice President and also have detailed talks with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Economy, Public Health & Social Assistance, and Energy & Mines. And her last stop will be Antigua City where she will interact with the Indian Diaspora.

The agenda will be talks related to deepening cooperation in food and energy, pharmaceuticals, MSMEs, Capacity Building, Science and Technology, Agriculture, Space, traditional medicine among others.

Financial Express Online has reported earlier the two countries are looking at possible cooperation in defence and security, International Solar Alliance (ISA), cooperation with CAABI and also being part of OSA (Organization of American States). India has already offered to train Civil Police.

It has been reported earlier that the Central American nation has expressed interest in Remote Sensing Training, Resource Mapping, and Forest Fire Fighting Management Training in the Space Sector. It has also sought India’s help in Waste water Management.

The meeting in Guatemala is important as it is a member of SICA and two sides have expressed interest in a Partial Free Trade Agreement. This agreement, if done will include six Central American countries including El Salvador which is part of SICA grouping.

Guatemala had invited India as an observer in the OAS General Assembly when it took place in that country. It has also expressed its interest in collaborating in vaccines and has welcomed FDI in pharmaceuticals, IT sector as well as manufacturing.

More about OAS

There are 35 independent states of the Americas which are members of this body which is considered to be the main social, political, and juridical governmental forum in the Hemisphere.

The minister will travel to San Salvador from January 17-19 and she will call on the President of El Salvador and is scheduled to have meetings with Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Culture.

In a first visit from India since the new government of President Luis Arce Catacora took over in Bolivia, she will call on the President and later is set to have meetings with Ministers of Hydrocarbons and Energies as well as Foreign affairs.

 “As India makes further inroads into Latin America and the Caribbean; our ministers have been making an attempt to deepen our relations with countries that have traditionally been overlooked by India,” opines Dr Aparaajita Pandey, PhD from Centre for Latin American Studies, JNU.

Sharing her views with Financial Express Online, Dr Aparaajita Pandey says “The Central American region had till now failed to capture India’s attention, however with this visit and her previous visit to Panama, it is quite evident that Central America would also feature in India’s foreign policy and its relations with other countries. Guatemala became the recipient of large quantities of medical supplies during the time of the spread of COVID – 19 and this has brought the two countries closer together.”

Bolivia is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas and also is a part of the three countries that house some of the largest reserves of lithium, which becomes extremely important for the larger shift away from fossil fuels. India is determined to find greener alternatives to carbon emissions.

“This would also be the first time that Lekhi will meet with the newly elected Bolivian President – Luis Arce. Bolivia is unique in the context of finding a balance between its indigenous populations and those who are of a Caucasian descent, popularly called the peninsulares in the region,” opines Pandey. 

According to her Cuba is on its way to significant socio-political changes and India wishes to be a part of that journey. The two countries have historically enjoyed friendly relations.  “During her visit the MoS would take part in a number of activities furthering the vibrancy of Indian culture and showcasing the unparalleled history and heritage of the state. It would be an opportunity to deepen the cultural ties between India and the above mentioned nations.”

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First published on: 13-01-2023 at 20:55 IST