Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has underlined Panama's strategic significance to India as he met Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Rodrigues and discussed bilateral cooperation in agriculture, trade, health, culture and education. During their talks yesterday, he also sought Panama's support for India's candidature to the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the term 2019-2021 and also called for a greater exchange of high-level visits between the two nations to deepen bilateral relations in various areas of mutual interest. Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado also accompanied them during their talks. The two leaders witnessed the signing of a MoU between India and Panama on exemption of visas for holders of diplomatic and official passports. They also witnessed signing of MoU in the field of agriculture. Naidu also visited the Panama Canal. Breaking protocol, President Rodriguez accompanied him to the famous canal. This was an unscheduled engagement of the Panamanian President that surprised the diplomats of both the countries, a statement said. Indian labourers in the 19th Century had contributed in building Panama railways and the canal. Naidu during his talks with Panamanian leaders also reaffirmed India's support for Panama's candidature for the UN Security Council's non-permanent seat. India also reiterated its resolve to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. "I am happy to know that Panama helped consolidate Latin America's support against the global scourge of terrorism," Naidu said. "India recognizes Panama's significance on account of its strategic location, robust economy and its active diplomatic pursuits," he said. He also said there was a need for greater exchange of high-level visits, especially at the political level, to deepen bilateral relations further in various areas of mutual interest. "India and Panama always had cordial ties. They are the oldest in the Central American region. These ties are based on our common values and a shared commitment to democracy, pluralism, multiculturalism, and the rule of law," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. Panama is the first country in Central America that established diplomatic relations with India, he said. Naidu also interacted with the Indian diaspora. Naidu is in Panama on the second leg of his three-nation tour to Latin America. He said his visit to the three Latin American countries of Guatemala, Panama and Peru was a part of the government's strategy of reaching out to various countries and regions of the world for enhanced engagement at higher levels to improve bilateral relations for mutual benefit. "Reaching out to the unreached is necessary for our country to play its due role in the emerging world order keeping in line with our strengths and commitments for peace and prosperity," he told the Indian community. "In the increasingly integrating global scheme of things, the progress and well being of the aspiring Indians are intrinsically linked with that of the people of Panama and other countries," Naidu said. "This warrants exploring opportunities for increased trade and investments for mutual benefit of India and the partnering countries. India and Latin American countries have complementarity and not 'competition' and there is huge scope for walking on a new path for mutual benefit," he added.