Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India-Brazil Strategic Engagement - Possibilities for the Future

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India-Brazil Strategic Engagement - Possibilities for the Future

Article excerpt

Writing in the Indian Foreign Affairs Journal of July-September 2010, Oliver Stuenkel of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil rightly observed that ties between Brazil and India remained largely insignificant during most of the cold war. Their inward-looking, protectionist policies based on strategies of import substitution as well as sharp disagreements over the decolonization process of the Portuguese enclaves in India, mainly Goa, cast a pall over their bilateral relationship. Even though they often took common positions in international fora such as UNCTAD and G77, and Indira Gandhi's historic visit to Brazil in 1968 (the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister) was generally well received, Brazil's geo-political ties to the United States and India's somewhat left-leaning, non-aligned policy kept their contacts sporadic and low-key.

Yet, during the decade-long military government in Brazil (1964-1975), a good number of Indian scientists and engineers worked on various nuclear, space and metallurgical research projects in that country without much fanfare. These were the days when Brazil held views very similar to those of India over the inequitable nature of the NPT regime. However, following India's "peaceful nuclear explosion" (PNE) in 1974, American pressure on successive Brazilian democratic governments appears to have dissuaded the latter from employing more Indians. In addition, consequent upon the restoration of democracy, Brazil went through a period of great economic turmoil with hyper-inflation decimating its currency; this, too, appears to have discouraged further influx of qualified Indians. With Brazil preferring regional cooperation within the framework of MERCOSUL (established in 1991) over the uncertainties of pursuing an independent nuclear policy, the need for Indian cooperation in space and nuclear research virtually came to an end.

In the words of Stuenkel, "The end of the cold war brought fundamental change to the geopolitical landscape, allowing Brazil and India to make a fresh start." The collapse of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War exposed the limitations of India's licence-permit raj, and the economic crisis of 1991-92 drove India into a dramatic opening up of its economy and made it more responsive to the demands of the marketplace. The period also witnessed Brazil emerging out of the disastrous lost decade of the 1980s and embracing more sustainable economic policies. It was the Sao Paulo-based brilliant sociologist, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who, as President Itamar Franco's Finance Minister during 1993-1994, devised the so-called Plano Real that pegged the Brazilian Real to the US dollar. This along with a host of socioeconomic measures placed Brazil on its path to recovery.

Not surprisingly, as President of the country during 1995-2002, Cardoso played a pioneering role in establishing Brazil-India ties. The current upswing in Brazil-India relations clearly had its genesis in President Cardoso's historic state visit to India in 1996. Even though in the absence of any direct shipping or air connections and inadequate knowledge of each other's potential, India- Brazil trade was slow in growing, Cardoso's Health Minister, José Serra, took the lead in encouraging Indian pharmaceutical companies to first export generic drugs to Brazil and later set up manufacturing plants there, primarily to help combat HIV/AIDS. (Later, under the auspices of the IBSA Dialogue Forum, the socio-economic grouping of India, Brazil and South Africa set up in June 2003, the three countries went on to start cooperating in their common fight against the three scourges of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.)

President Lula da Silva and the True Founding of Bilateral Cooperation

While Cardoso's visit opened up the prospects of potentially beneficial links between Brazil and India, it was under his successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula (2003-2010) that Brazil-India relations really took off. …

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