Latin America’s Indian Friends

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Yesterday, Latin American leaders from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), met with Indian leaders in New Delhi to discuss future cooperation.  The summit produced a Science Forum, an Energy Forum, an Agricultural Export Group, a Business Council, and a CEOs Forum.  As one would expect, both sides agreed that terrorism is bad, economic cooperation is good and much more is still needed.

In 2011, India’s trade with Latin America reached $25 billion – a huge increase over the last decade, but still a pittance when compared with US trade with the region at $771 billion and Chinese trade at $245 billion.

But relations with India give Latin American countries more power in negotiations with China.  When China stopped buying Argentine Soybean oil in retaliation against import restrictions, India quickly moved in to close the gap.  From 2009-2010, Indian imports of Soybean oil from Argentina tripled from $606 million to $1.8 billion.

Moreover, India has been actively investing in Latin America’s technology and manufacturing, rather than just purchasing raw materials.  In 2011, 35,000 Latin Americas worked for Indian companies, with more than half in IT.  Current Indian investments in the region total around $15 billion.  India has also been an eager customer of Brazilian aircraft, manufactured by Embraer.

Historically, India and Latin America have been distant, each viewing each other with a certain level of uninterested disgust.  Indians viewed Latin America as corrupt and coup happy, while Latin Americans were stunned by India’s high poverty and famine.  In a softer light, Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore influenced the literary work of Chilean Pablo Neruda.  The Chilean visited India twice.  Unfortunately, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru almost stood up Neruda during a meeting, inspiring him to write “India 1951,” one of his darker poems.

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