VP of Colombia seeks deeper ties with India, bats for women empowerment

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Updated: October 07, 2021 6:18 PM

At the end of the talks between the visiting leader and external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar, two Letters of Intent were inked related to cooperation in the fields of biotechnology and medical research.

Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez, exploring opportunities in Indo-Pacific, joint vaccine production, auto-sector especially e-vehicle, Human Space Flight Centre India columbia tie upColombia's Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez shared her views on the Indo-Colombia bilateral relations, Indo-Pacific, vaccines

The first woman Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez is in India leading a huge official and business delegation. The focus of the visit is on exploring opportunities in Indo-Pacific, joint vaccine production, auto-sector especially e-vehicles and women entrepreneurs. As the first woman Vice President in her country, she talked passionately about women empowerment and highlighted the role of women in the world economy, creating more jobs and empowering them. “In Colombia we are committed to develop women entrepreneurs, not only for small companies. We want women to have women as owners of medium and large companies.”

For the first time, a big delegation from the region with 48 health and science and technology members landed in India. There were Dr Luiz Fernando Ruiz, Minister of Health and Social Protection, more officials of other ministries, representatives from business and educational institutions.

At the end of the talks between the visiting leader and external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar, two Letters of Intent were inked related to cooperation in the fields of biotechnology and medical research.

The delegation had visited Pune, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru and the objective was to explore co-production, technology transfer for developing vaccines and pharmaceutical products. Meetings in Bengaluru at ISRO and New Space India Limited (NSIL) and the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) were to deepen cooperation in the peaceful use of Outer Space, launching satellites and new technologies.

Colombia’s Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez shared her views on the Indo-Colombia bilateral relations, Indo-Pacific, vaccines and much more in an exclusive interaction with Huma Siddiqui.

Following are excerpts:

This is your second visit to India. The first time you came was two decades back. What changes do you notice in India and Colombia relations?

First of all, I feel so enthusiastic about India because it’s not only a very large population, but is a good market for companies. We would like very much to have Colombian companies exporting to India, coffee, emerald, gold, but we also would like very much to work with Indian industries in Colombia using Colombia as a platform to export the Indian goods from there to the entire hemisphere. Why? Because our country has free trade agreements with all the countries in our hemisphere. One could get free access without tariffs to those countries.

So I’m very enthusiastic because of that.

Secondly, I admire the Indian style. You have a democracy, which is based on values that we share, you are facing the value of freedom and also respect for human beings. We have the same values in India. So that’s why we want to have India in our region. And we would like to have Colombia very involved in the Indo-Pacific. Considering that there are two big parties — China, India, we feel okay. They seem to be also working very much developing industries, technology. So we are keen to work together.

So a major component of your delegation is pharma. What is that you were looking for from India and why?

This delegation was organised by our Ambassador Mrs Mariana Pacheco Montes. And we chose those sectors with high potential to have bilateral alliances. Especially in the pharmaceuticals, India is very developed in this sector and we hope to produce in the future to sell to different markets. I remember when I was the foreign trade minister, at that time, the minister from India, he was fighting for the pharmaceutical industry. He was fighting for the generics. And I understood at that moment, this concept to have very high levels of quality and development in the industry, but also low costs and to provide medicines and access to medicines to everybody. It shows you also balance the value of the lives, the value of health for people. So that’s a reason why we would like to have the Colombian pharmaceuticals involved with India pharmaceuticals and also to have not only the COVID vaccines, but also to do research and development for the production of other vaccines in the future. Vaccines for different illnesses. And we want to work together with India.

You met with our External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. There are pictures of him showing his new electric vehicle.

Yes. Colombia launched a law in order to make the transition to electrical cars. And we are going to work in the transition for all of them. The minister was explaining to me how strong their production in India is. So we would very much like to have Indian cars in our country and also in the entire region. So that’s why I have mentioned if we can bring electrical cars from India, and if we can get some value-added in Colombia, those cars are going to have origin rules in order to go to markets in all the Latin American economies without tariffs, because India has not free trade agreements with that in America, but Colombia has. So if we can have this kind of a mix, a production where we can do the seats for the cars, we can do the tires for the cars. We can do some of the auto parts for the cars, and it gives these values. Value-added so both origin rules, and this is something that could be very possible. Dr Jaishankar’s car is amazing, very comfortable, very compact and small. And we would very much like to have the Indian production go to my country.

Did you discuss logistics and shipping issues?

Because of the lockdown everything changed in terms of trade, international trade So that’s why we are clear that so many companies are using these nearshoring strategies to have a closer production to the big markets like the United States. So that’s why we feel that there is going to be a real conversation, real localization of industries. And we would like to have these giant companies between India and Colombia producing in our region in order to sell to all the regions, because it’s not going to be as easy in the short term to have this value added to global value chains. So yes, we discussed how to promote these linkages between India and Colombian companies.

Drug trafficking is a big problem in your country and for us in India. Was there a discussion on how to deal with this menace?

First of all, we are clear that both countries share the same concern that when there is drug trafficking, there is violence. There is drug trafficking, mafias, they are very dangerous and they don’t care about anything. They want to have control of their territory because it expands their businesses. So we have to work together in order to exchange experiences and knowledge that we have. And also in order to have more intelligence information about how these people clean their assets in other countries, and of course about how we can work together with other countries in order to avoid terrorism again, because terrorism is so bad, make people suffer. So hopefully we will not see all these same things.

Yes. Now we have a problem. An additional problem is that during the peace negotiation with FARC, the previous government was not strong enough. The mandate was to provide information about their allies in the narco trafficking industry. So they have no commitment to give us information about the Mexican cartels, European, Asian cartels. They didn’t give any information about where the assets are, the money. And that’s why we have in Colombia, again, the cocaine production, and it affects people in the villages and rural areas. So that’s why you have to cooperate with each other. And we have to ask the entire community to cooperate through this principle of core responsibility. And we have to ask the countries where they are, the money it’s very big that they have to ask us also, in order to stop all this money laundering.

Space Cooperation

We want to develop all the IT industries and also related to aerospace. We also now have some airplanes made in Colombia, small airplanes, and we would like to develop that industry much more in order to sell in our region. Some drones we would like to develop, but we also would like to have better information about the space for economic purposes, for example, there is climate change, how it affects, and also learn how we can register land in our country. This is something that in some countries is very difficult. It’s still very difficult. It creates these very informal trade of land. In the Space, for peaceful purposes it is so important to have more investment with private, public companies in Colombia, we used to have only the air force focus on the space but there is much more than that.

It’s not only for defense, it’s also for the economy. Climate change is also important for the development of industries. We are clear that Colombia could be a producer of some parts for the airplane industry. This is going to be also very productive. Yes, of course, disaster management is a huge thing.

Last question. Is your president coming to India for our January 26 parade?

Hopefully President Iván Duque Márquez will be coming to India. And we also invite the President of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the External Affairs Minister to come to Colombia. We like very much to have the presidential visit to India. India’s President was supposed to visit our country earlier, but due to the Covid crisis, it was not possible.

So hopefully we will have this exchange of visits in order to have a stronger relation, not only between officials, but also between public sector and private sector companies. In academics, I brought some presidents from Colombian universities because we really believe that these linkages between public sector, private sector and the academy are going to create a more solid basis for these long-term relations with other countries, not only within India, but we are developing strategic alliances with some countries.

Women empowerment – your views?

There is a need to have more women in the world economy, we believe they should have economic autonomy and that will ensure less violence against them and children. Women can change the world!

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