India looks to deeper cooperation with Paraguay – Agriculture and Space Cooperation are two areas where the two are keen to work together.
India is looking to expand its presence in South America, as there are lot of opportunities in various sectors including capacity building, space, yoga, and mining exploration, renewable energy which will deepen bilateral relations with Paraguay.
The government has been wanting to expand its footprints in this region and towards that goal, between 2018-19 ten countries in the region have hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visited Argentina, both President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu of India.
Some visits that have already taken place to countries in the region including Cuba, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Argentina, Guatemala and later this month President Kovind is expected to visit Bolivia and Chile as has already been reported by Financial Express Online.
Speaking to Financial Express Online, Vice President Naidu said, “There are lot of areas where we can work together. We can help in capacity building, Space sector where they can work with Indian Space Research Organization, as well in the area of education.”
The country could play a major role in India’s Food Security. There is a huge demand for the agriculture machinery in the Paraguay. “Agriculture is one sector where we can work together,” Naidu added.
“Globally, the countries are keen on doing business with India and we are respected everywhere. There is a lot of interest in Yoga and our culture. We are trying to promote that across the globe. We are studying the possibility of extending Line of Credit for projects. Education is an area where India can help in setting up training centers and help in capacity building,” Naidu added.
“They are keen on cooperating in various fields and we are looking forward to expanding our relations with these countries.”
New Delhi has offered to set up a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology in Paraguay and since the country faces similar development challenges as India, scholarships are being offered under the ITEC programme.
India is already committed to a project in Paraguay titled Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy and Sexual Abuse/ Violence in Girls and Adolescents from an Inter-Sectoral Approach. This 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.
To a question that the South American nation is interested in India’s help in setting up training institutes, the Vice President said that, “I believe that people should learn their mother tongue. And that is something that should be encouraged in schools. Infact, “Aasha and Bhavana (Hope and expression)” walks together when you profess your mother tongue.”
It is important to know your mother tongue before we learn other languages, he added.
Naidu is also scheduled to meet Vice President, Hugo Velázquez, and President of the National Congress (Senate), Silvio Ovelar and interact with the Indian diaspora in Paraguay on Wednesday. He will also address the India-Paraguay business forum before departing for Costa Rica, where the Vice President is keen to learn more about the security of country without a standing army.
Paraguay’s main economic activity is based on agriculture and cattle ranching and is the fourth largest producer of soya in the world with an annual production of 9.2 million tonnes.
A top government official confirmed to Financial Express Online that “India is seriously looking at these nations for contractual farming and during the talks with President of Paraguay Mario Abdo Bentitez, strategic relation as well as food security and deeper cooperation in the Agriculture sector will be topping the agenda.”
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.
Soybean 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.
The Latin America and Caribbean Desk in the Ministry of External Affairs has been on regular basis holding webinars in an effort to connect both the small and medium scale companies on both sides. “the concept of webinars on a regular basis in the region also shows how India is trying to bridge the gaps digitally. This is an important step as this has opened the doors to small and medium size businesses on both side to explore the markets and understand the way of doing businesses and the various laws of the land. However, there is still a lot more to do as the information the companies need is not easily available,” observed a senior officer who shared his views on condition of anonymity.