In the first ever high-level visit by any leader to Paraguay and Costa Rica, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu accompanied by a high-level delegation will visit these countries to advance India’s outreach to these countries in the LatAm region during weeklong visit. The visit starting from March 5-9 is expected to provide an opportunity to provide impetus to India’s bilateral relations in trade and investment, ICT, renewable energy including hydel, education, healthcare, space and people to people linkages.
Naidu will meet with President of the Republic of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, Vice President, Hugo Velázquez, and President of the National Congress (Senate), Silvio Ovelar and also address the India-Paraguay business forum and interact with the Indian diaspora in Paraguay. While the then President of Paraguay Fernando Lugo had visited India in May 2012, and ministerial and other level exchanges have taken place from time to time, this is the first ever high level visit from India to the South American nation.
Trade is one of the main drivers of the bilateral relations which has increased almost ten-fold over the last ten years and reached $ 334 million in 2017-18 from $ 40 million in 2008-09. Main export items from India to Paraguay include iron and steel, plastics, chemicals, vehicles and auto parts; while Paraguay’s exports to India are composed mainly of vegetable oil, oils and resinoids, and aluminum. Brand India in the automobile sector has a strong presence in Paraguay.
Soyabean oil accounts for over 90% of Paraguay‘s exports to India. Other significant export items of Paraguay to India are iron and steel, oils and resinoids and aluminum. Bajaj Motors, Tata Motors, Royal Enfield, Carmenta (Joint Venture of Alok MasterBatches Ltd of India and Grupo Barr of Paraguay). This South American nation is also a member of MERCOSUR (a South American Customs‘Union currently made up of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) and supports strengthening and increased integration of the trade bloc. It is also a member of UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), OAS (Organization of American States) and an observer in NAM (Non Aligned Movement).
India has offered to set up a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology in Paraguay. Since the country faces similar development challenges as India, scholarships are being offered under the ITEC programme to Paraguay. Aid to a project in Paraguay titled Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy and Sexual Abuse/ Violence in Girls and Adolescents from an Intersectoral Approach‘has been approved under the India-UN Development Partnership Fund. Work on the project, which has a budget of $ 600,000, is expected to start soon and the project-duration will be 36 months.
An India-MERCOSUR Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) was concluded 25 January 2004 and became operational in June 2009 (India was the first country with which MERCOSUR signed a PTA). Preferential duty (10-20% in most cases) is given to 452 Indian Products entering MERCOSUR countries and reciprocal concession to 450 products of MERCOSUR entering India.
India offers an additional 10% margin of preference only to Paraguay for a Tariff Rate Quota of imports of crude soybean oil up to 30000 MT/year. (Imports from other MERCOSUR countries are not entitled to the concessional rates and attract MFN rates.)
India‘s bilateral trade with MERCOSUR during 2017-18 was 40.97% of its trade with the LAC region as a whole.
Besides the meetings with President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, First Vice President, Ms. Epsy Campbell Barr as well as President of Congress Ms. Carolina Hidalgo Herrera, Naidu will address the University of Peace (UPEACE), established under the auspices of the United Nations with a specific mandate of furthering the agenda of peace.
As has been reported by Financial Express Newspaper, recognising India as a key player in global efforts for the maintenance of international peace and security, University for Peace (UPEACE), is planning to set up a Yoga chair. Also, being a leader in South-South Cooperation, the University is keen on India playing a larger role in Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) ahead of a major conference this year.
Francisco Rojas Aravena, Rector of the university, had in an earlier interaction mentioned that “As part of South-South Cooperation, the UPEACE is seeking India’s involvement in working on developing Objective 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in preparation for 2019 conference at UN Headquarters in New York.”
The SDG 16 highlights that Rule of law at national and international levels, inter alia, has to be ensured by providing equal access to justice for all. And in the absence of peace, achieving sustainable development itself will become difficult.
Setting up Yoga Chair is important as education for peace can play a useful role in supporting the process for peace building. The UPEACE established as a Treaty Organisation with its own Charter in an International Agreement adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 35/55 of 5 December 1980, is the academic wing of the United Nations mandated to award Master and Doctorate degrees in fields related to peace studies.
It is headquartered in Costa Rica; it has Centres in Addis Ababa, The Hague, Vienna, and New York. The secretary general of the UN is the honorary president of the university. The studio of the University is entitled ‘The Mahatma Gandhi Studio’. In the past faculty members from Benaras Hindu University, Islamic University of Science and Technology in Srinagar, and Jamia Milia University, on International Peace Studies have been trained.
Dr. Mihir Kanade, Academic Director of the UPEACE, stated that the Indian subcontinent has been a perpetual laboratory for validating the omnipotent values of universal peace, humanism, tolerance and coexistence. The teachings of inspirational figures like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi are extremely relevant for transformation of contemporary conflicts of all kinds around the world.
He also expressed happiness over the award of the title of Doctor Honoris Causa to Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu by the University for Peace for his role in promoting the rule of law, democracy, and sustainable development in India.
Naidu will also deliver the keynote address at the India-Costa Rica business forum; and meet with the Indian community in Costa Rica.
The bilateral trade between the two countries $ 200 mn, in which Indian exports total $ 133 mn with auto, motorcycles and pharma figuring among top exports. Imports from Costa Rica are mainly teakwood. With a commitment to become carbon-neutral country by 2021, Costa Rica has joined the International Solar Alliance.