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Why Does India Extend Its Hand to Latin America?

Context:

  • India’s engagement with Latin America has significantly increased over the past few years.
    • S. Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, will travel to Guyana and Colombia later this month after stops in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
    • Meenakshi Lekhi, a minister of state for external affairs, travelled to the area and met with top leaders in Bolivia, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Cuba.
    • For the G20, New Delhi also welcomed a number of regional leaders, including the foreign ministers of Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and affecting India’s interests; India-US relation

Mains Question

“Latin American nations are looking to collaborate with India in new fields like space, science, and technology, and defence; from New Delhi’s perspective, this represents a positive dynamic.” Examine the claim critically. (250 Words).


Key Points:

  • From New Delhi’s perspective, it’s encouraging that Latin American nations like Mexico, Brazil, Panama, and Argentina are looking to collaborate with India in new fields like space, science, and technology, and defence.
  • In spite of recent growth, trade between India and Latin America remains modest on a quantitative level.

What is the relationship between India and Latin America’s history?

  • Due to its constrained diplomatic and economic reach, India had to put its relationships with its neighbours and the major Western powers first in the decades following its independence.
    • Despite India’s interest in the continent, it paid little attention to Latin America.
  • Latin America’s significant domestic problems mirrored these resource and diplomatic reach limitations, but the end of the Cold War and India’s influence have opened up new possibilities.

Why is Latin America of interest to India now?

  • Trade and Investment o Over the past two decades, India’s trade with Latin American nations has increased significantly, and its investments are diversified across industries like manufacturing and information technology (IT).
  • Since 2000, trade has increased by almost 25% yearly, reaching close to $50 billion.
    • In addition, the area has grown to be a significant market for the Indian auto and pharmaceutical industries.
  • Diversification of Dependencies on Energy
  • India has turned to Latin America in an effort to diversify its energy sources.
  • Indian energy giants like ONGC and Bharat Petroleum are present in Colombia and Brazil, respectively.
  • The region is home to crucial reserves of materials like copper and lithium, which will be crucial to India’s energy transition plans. Renewable energy is also a key interest, with potential for cooperation in ethanol and green hydrogen.
  • How has the area reacted to India’s efforts?
  • In an effort to entice investment, Latin America has welcomed rising Indian interest.
    • The foreign minister of Panama emphasised that Latin American countries can link Indian businesses with the larger American market.
  • Covid and the war in Ukraine have both had an impact on the region of Latin America.
    • Poverty and inequality are major problems for many of the major economies in the region.
  • So, for many of the economies in the region, expanding economic ties with India is a top priority.

How are the ties with the nations of Latin America?

  • Brazil and India’s relations stand out in Latin America because both countries are widely regarded as “rising powers” in the global system.
  • Both parties envision greater cooperation in a variety of areas as a result of their participation in newly formed multilateral organisations like the BRICS and IBSA.
  • Mexican and Indian businesses view Mexico as a “springboard” to improve access to the significantly larger US market.
    • In Latin America, Mexico is India’s second-largest trading partner.
    • Mexico has been seen as a reliable source of crude oil and related investments by New Delhi ever since that country opened up its oil sector to foreign investment in 2014.
  • Argentina o In a time when ties between Argentina and China have gotten stronger quickly, Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s trip to India in 2019 could still have a significant impact on how India and Argentina interact.
  • With Macri’s visit, both parties are looking into ways to increase their cooperation in fields like space, nuclear energy, and defence.
    • The MoU between Argentina and India on defence cooperation represents a significant step forward, especially in light of the former’s expanding military ties with China.
  • Additional Latin American nations
    • India is attempting to increase its economic influence in other parts of Latin America.
  • Chile is India’s sixth-largest trading partner in the region, and New Delhi is encouraged to look into expanding economic ties with Santiago by Chile’s favourable geographic location.
  • India and Peru, meanwhile, are debating a comprehensive free trade agreement; there have already been three rounds of negotiations.

Way Forward:

  • Historically, India’s interactions with Latin American nations have been influenced by its membership in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as well as the “Global South,” which is still somewhat of a buzzword in the region.
  • China’s enormous $450 billion trade in the region dwarfs India’s increased trade with Latin America.
    • India must start enlarging its own presence in the region as China is quickly becoming the region’s economic and strategic partner.India’s position as a rising power, economic expansion, and soft power in the form of its cultural and civilizational practices, like yoga, have all worked in its favour.
  • In the race to exploit the significant mineral resources of Latin America, Indian businesses have lagged behind.
  • India will need to step up its economic diplomacy and join organisations like the Inter-American Development Bank that are focused on the regional economy.

Conclusion:

Although India’s interest in Latin America is relatively new, the relationship has been improving. The Indian government has expressed a desire to diversify India’s engagement in the region.

 


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