In the latest instalment of foreign office consultations, Secretary East would be visiting the Dominican Republic (DR), Cuba, and Mexico. In recent times, India has begun to look towards Latin America and the Caribbean as potential partners with a much more active relationship between the region and India. With this background, the number of high – level visits between the two regions, India and Latin America have increased manifold.
Senior officials in the Ministry of External Affairs have confirmed to Financial Express Online that over the weekend Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East) accompanied by other senior officials from the ministry will be heading to Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic.
The foreign office consultations will cover a wide spectrum of issues – bilateral, regional as well as global. “The primary focus in these three countries will be on enhancing bilateral trade and economic relations, defence and security, expanding India’s exports basket, science and technology, space and more,” a senior officer told Financial Express Online.
For instance, “the consultations will cover all aspects of the bilateral relations between the two countries, and that country is more interested in deeper cooperation in Science and Technology as well as Innovation as well as other sectors. In the Dominican Republic, India has recently, formally opened a new mission, therefore the consultations will highlight the growing relations between the two countries. And in Cuba the consultations are taking place after a long gap. A lot has to be covered there.”
India & LAC Region
In the recent past the foreign ministers, ministers of Commerce, and Heads of States have exchanged visits. India has also made it a point to broaden its approach to the region by expanding its focus from just the conventionally larger economies like Brazil, Argentina, and Chile and have also shifted focus towards Central America and the Caribbean.
While India does have diaspora ties with the Caribbean, its linkages with Central America are limited to begin with; however, a growing interest in the region as well as the aim of exploring further opportunities for collaboration and trade have led India to develop a burgeoning interest in countries that have not been visited previously and also renew ties with nations that have fallen to slight neglect over the years. This series of foreign office consultations with Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Mexico are not just an opportunity to strengthen ties with countries like the Dominican Republic, but also to reinvigorate ties with countries like Cuba, where such consultations have not taken place for some time.
India & Dominican Republic
In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, Dominican Republic Ambassador to India, David Puig, emphasized that after assuming his post in February 2021, he had focussed on joining the India led Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructures (CDRI). End of 2021, DR became a member of CDRI and is also a member of International Solar Alliance.
This is a global alliance of governments and various agencies of the UN, private sector and development banks. And the mission of CDRI to promote the resilience of infrastructure systems against climate risks and natural disasters.
According to him, during the Foreign Office consultations to take place in the first week of July in Santo Domingo, “among many issues the focus will be on strengthening of trade, regional issues, space cooperation and agriculture.”
“We want to have deeper cooperation with India in the space sector as we are in the process of setting up our own Space Agency and thus we have initiated talks with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO),” Ambassador Puig said.
What does DR want in the Space Sector?
The Caribbean island country is looking to have deeper cooperation in the space sector and for this some scientists have been identified who will soon come to India to undergo eight weeks training under the Unispace Nano-satellite Assembly and Training by ISRO (UNNATI). This programme which was launched in 2019 imparts training at UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC)’s facilities in technologies. This is related to building nano-satellites. DR will be the fifth country from the region to join this programme.
It is also keen to sign an agreement with ISRO for Data Sharing which will help the island nation in disaster management, agriculture, surveillance, among others.
The trade between the two countries has already touched more than USD one billion in 2021, placing India amongst the five main trading partners of that country.
The major component of the trade is gold exported to India, rum and cigars are already present in India.
And with a new mission in that country the scope of expanding the export /import basket is more. The country is keen to export avocados to India and the talks next week are expected to touch on this too.
The Dominican Republic is also keen to tie up with Indian Universities to promote Higher Education, Defence & Security, Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, and pharmaceuticals.
According to Ambassador Puig, “Defence is another sector where we are keen to expand our relations. Besides training under ITEC, we are in the process of identifying areas where we can work together.”
Earlier this month the Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Carlos Luciano Díaz Morfa, received in his office the Indian Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Ramu Abbagani. Both sides during that meeting had discussed topics of interest and cooperation – training programmes, educational exchanges, and military training between the Armed Forces of both nations.