Jaishankar heads to South America – Food, energy security and defence to be focus

The focus of Dr S Jaishankar’s visit is also on deepening South-South Cooperation, as both Argentina and Brazil are partners of India in the South of the region.

Jaishankar heads to South America – Food, energy security and defence to be focus

In a move that is seen as India further warming up to South America, External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar is headed to three countries – Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

Confirming this to Financial Express Online a top diplomat said “The focus of the minister’s visit to the three countries is more on food and energy security, edible oil, pharmaceuticals, expansion of the India-MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) as well as defence and security among others.”

Talks will also be on lithium and other minerals, mini-nuclear reactors and nuclear energy (Argentina), climate change, pharmaceuticals, education and defence and security.

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“In the three countries starting from Brazil, the minister will be meeting his counterparts and other leaders as well as ink several agreements in various sectors,” said the diplomat quoted above.

MERCOSUR & India

Financial Express Online has reported earlier, Paraguay one of the member countries, and under its Pro Tempore Presidency of the bloc (PPTP 2022) discussions took place earlier this year.

All the three countries where the minister is traveling to are members of the grouping and the expansion of the existing trade agreement is in the process of being negotiated. “Earlier the talks were getting delayed due to differences between Argentina and Brazil. However, the member countries are irked with the conclusion of a feasibility study for a trade agreement with China by Uruguay. Now, this has delayed the talks. From India’s side, we have already shared what was required by the group member countries,” explained an officer.

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Importance of Argentina and Brazil

Argentina and Brazil are both members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and G20. Argentina is also a member of Wassenaar Arrangement. In 2023, the G20 summit will be hosted by India.

These are two strategic partners with India and the visit to these countries will further strengthen the relations with the region. The focus is also on deepening South-South Cooperation, as both Argentina and Brazil are partners of India in the South of the region.

Brazil is a member nation of G4 along with India, Germany, and Japan. These four countries are supporting each other’s bids for permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

While Brazil is a member country of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), Argentina has recently applied for the membership of BRICS.

India and Paraguay

Earlier this year India established its mission in the capital Asuncion of Paraguay. The minister during his visit to that country is expected to inaugurate the mission officially and also have meetings with the top leadership.

Dr Jaishankar will meet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julio Arriola during his visit.

In an earlier interaction with Financial Express Online, India’s first ambassador to Paraguay Yogeshwar Sangwan said, “With the opening of a mission in Paraguay cooperation in various fields including tourism, trade, animal husbandry, green hydrogen, solar energy, space, education and fertiliser sectors has increased.”

In September for the first time a large business delegation headed to the South American nation Paraguay.

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As has been reported earlier, until December 2020, the Embassy of India in Argentina was concurrently accredited to Paraguay. In 2019, the former Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu had visited that country and several agreements were inked. Financial Express Online had first reported the possibility of opening a mission in Paraguay.

India & Argentina

The external affairs minister has met his Argentinean counterpart Santiago Cafiero two times this year – one was during the latter’s visit to New Delhi in April and he had travelled to Mumbai too. Then they both met on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers meet in Bali, Indonesia.

Infact to meet the shortage of Edible Oil due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, India is looking forward to the countries in the South American region to meet its demand. And has moved forward a request to make amendments to the existing PTA with Mercosur.

The plan to increase the import of edible oil from both Brazil and Argentina was discussed among the member countries in March this year. The talks were led by Secretary for Economic Relations in the Ministry of External Affairs Dammu Ravi.

New Delhi is also discussing the import of Soy from these member countries under the existing PTA. And towards this, New Delhi is planning to bring down tariffs or completely remove them and to do away with the stringent testing procedures for not only Soy but other agri-oils too. Argentina is the world’s leading exporter of sunflower oil. 

Lithium & Argentina

By the end of this year, the South American nation is expected to be the second largest exporter of rare earth.

Both the countries have an agreement in place for the exploration and exploitation of minerals. This is between the Indian consortium KABIL and JEMSE, the public company of the Province of Jujuy. And KABIL is pursuing deeper collaboration in Lithium in Catamarca province too.

India-CELAC forum

Argentina is holding the presidency of CELAC Forum and the two sides have agreed to re-energise. CELAC is a grouping of 33 countries of the region which was set up in 2011.

Defence Cooperation

In all the three countries the talks with leaderships and other officials will be to push deeper cooperation in defence and security areas too. The visit comes close on the heels of the recent visit of Indian Navy ship INS Tarkash to Brazil. Country’s top aerospace company Embraer has offered several military platforms and solutions for the Indian Air Force and Navy as well as in commercial aviation too.

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Argentina, which is in the midst of modernizing its defence equipment, is looking at India. And recently there was a visit of a delegation led by the Chief of Argentine Air Force. “There is an interest in defence platforms, however, any platform which has a British component is something the South American nation will not consider,” explained an officer.

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