Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Latin America and India: Understanding Mutual Opportunities

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Latin America and India: Understanding Mutual Opportunities

Article excerpt

The Indian reality is a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns. Its social fabric is bewildering to most outsiders, and is difficult to encapsulate for presentation even by its own representatives abroad. India's economic reality has undergone profound changes not only under the influence of global trends and forces, but also because of its own spectacular dynamism and versatility over the past two decades.

Latin America is even more complex. Most Indians tend to view the region through a translucent prism of historical developments and seldom understand fully. The social and economic diversity, and the rapid pace of developments within the mega-region, also contribute to their confused perception.

Despite all this, there is no denying that India and Latin America have emerged, more or less simultaneously, in the new economic geography that now defines the global order. Both have overcome the recent, some would say ongoing, international economic and financial crisis, demonstrating admirable rates of economic growth and reduction of poverty. Key Latin American economies are counted among the big global players, as is India. This emergence is bound to have a significant impact on redefining the political paradigm of international relations in this century. It is, therefore, important for India to understand what mutual opportunities will arise and how it can avail of these to enhance a beneficial relationship free of contention with a part of the world with which India has no conflict.

Political Reality

Over the two centuries of its post-colonial history, Latin America has found it difficult to articulate, leave alone embark upon, a common destiny. The creation of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2012 did indeed reflect a common spirit. Looking at the past two years, however, it could appear that far from the forging of a common identity, the world may even be witnessing a lack of common will among the CELAC's constituent states. There are undeniable rifts and fissures, due principally to the political and economic divergence among its constituent states that present fundamental obstacles to harmonious integration.

The region has, however, embarked on a 21st century voyage of global discovery. The major players either have defined their priorities or are in the process of doing so definitively. These priorities will determine their policy orientation for the near future. Twentieth century paradigms are giving way to the formulation of strategies based on exigencies and policy choices that cannot be anticipated in tactical terms.

India's political relations with the region have been cordial but lack the substance and levels of interaction that exist with any of the other regions. Geographical distance, lack of historical links, linguistic gaps, and divergent political leanings are some of the causes of this hiatus. If India is to energise and substantiate its relations with Latin America, it has no choice but to enhance its appreciation and deepen its knowledge of the political proclivities of the states it is dealing with. It has done so with Brazil to a great extent. The two are partners in the BRICS, the IBSA, the BASIC and other forums.

The Government of India has reciprocated the increased interest expressed by its Latin American interlocutors in the recent past. High-level visits have been much more frequent in this century than in the last. Meetings between senior officials have enabled the conclusion of important agreements in a wide range of activities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in September 2014 to Brazil for the BRICS Summit was an opportunity for him to personally meet the leaders of all twelve South American countries.1

The expectation is that there will be an attempt to evolve a comprehensive strategy for that region, considered distant until now, perhaps on the lines of India's policy towards the ASEAN or Africa.

On political issues of fundamental importance: Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism, separatism (as in the case of Punjab), etc. …

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