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Reports on Conference



Name of Event:  “Recent Developments in Latin American and Caribbean Region”
Date:  8 August 2012
Venue:  Sapru House, New Delhi



A seminar was organized by Indian Council of World Affairs on 8th August, 2012 at Sapru House to discuss India’s relationship with the Latin American and Caribbean countries, in the context of the recent formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The main speaker for this occasion was H.E. Alfredo Moreno Charme, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Chile, which currently holds the Presidency of CELAC. He was joined by other members of the Troika - H.E. Abelardo Cueto Sosa, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba, which will assume the Presidency in 2013, and Mr. Ernesto Serrano, Coordinator of Political and Bilateral Affairs of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which held the Presidency in 2011. The seminar was also addressed by Shri M. Ganapathi, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, the Director General of ICWA in his opening statement, underlined the importance of the relationship between India and the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. The region, though geographically distant from India, has a significant presence of Indian diaspora mainly in the Caribbean, and cordial political relations, with no conflicts and clash of interests. India had been always aware of the multi -dimensional transformation unfolding there, with the LAC countries showing great determination in overcoming the barriers of size, divergence in economic and social development, to achieve harmony, unity and integration at sub-regional and regional level. Ambassador Bhatia pointed out that, on many global issues, such as reform of UN institutions, international financial crisis, climate change and terrorism LAC and India are on the same page. There has been a steady growth in the relationship between the two regions, as evident in the bilateral trade between India and LAC countries, which has grown from US$ 500 million in 1990, to US$ 25billion in 2011. But we have much potential to exploit, not only in trade and commerce, but also in cultural and academic sectors, and people to people contacts. ICWA has recently, taken the initiative in enhancing awareness of LAC, with the launching of a LAC portal on its website, and proposes to establish a network of institutional contacts which will enable scholars on both sides to refine research on each other´s regions.

The Foreign Minister of Chile, in his address, and in replies to subsequent interventions and questions from the audience, outlined that CELAC, whose origin lies in the Rio group of 70s, has just taken off, but has been able solve the political differences between its members, with an objective of an overall development of the regions, which also began through a number of sub-regional organizations, mainly of economic nature. CELAC works for the strengthening of the political, economic, social and cultural integration of the region. It works through a process of consensus among all the member countries and believes in the ideal of democracy, while not interfering in the individual members internal affairs.

Mr. Ernesto Serrano of Venezuela expounded his government´s view that CELAC stands for individual and national equality and seeks to promote a multi-polar world, through solidarity among like-minded countries such as India.

Ambassador Abelardo Cueto Sosa of Cuba felt CELAC sees India as a leader in creating a world of mutual dependence and cooperation, because of its history of support for the struggle for independence.

Chilean Minister Alfredo Moreno referred to India as one of the largest economies in the world, and a country which is politically stable and therefore attractive for LAC. India has a large consumer base with a large middle class and its population will surpass that of China’s by 2030. India has a large and growing middle class market which is very attractive for the LAC countries. To this end, Chile is expanding the terms of its Preferential Tariff Agreement with India and hopes to reach eventually a free trade arrangement. He pointed to the gap between India´s participation in LAC trade as compared with China, and called on India to look at LAC more closely. LAC countries have huge natural resources, particularly minerals, water and energy. It is also the world´s largest exporter of agricultural produce.

The Cuban Ambassador pointed out, India can offer CELAC human capital. Cuba, on the other hand can offer good investments and exchange in science and technologies. Mr. Ernesto Serrano while echoing Ambassador Bhatia’s views, pointed out that India and CELAC countries can work jointly on various issues like international financial crisis, trade, energy, eradication of hunger, poverty, in food security and health and education.

Minister Moreno explained that LAC had not suffered unduly during the recent financial crises because of strong economic fundamentals. CELAC countries believe in peace and through organizations like Union of South American States (UNASUR) has coordinated defence and security policy in the LAC region, while emphasising economic and social development. The last major war in the region was in 1930. All over the region today, democracy and human rights are gaining in importance.

In recent years, there has been a positive growth in the relationship between India and CELAC countries. From 2003 to 2008 there has been a 50% increase in the number of Indian embassies present in LAC countries. In 2003 there were 7 LAC embassies but at present it is 14. In respect of trade also there has been a substantial growth, but still the trade between the two regions is low. Trade with India consists of 1% the aggregate trade of LAC. In contrast, China occupies a large share in the trade with the LAC countries. In Chile, for example, India accounts for 2.2% of the exports while China occupies 20.2%.

Shri M. Ganapathi, Secretary (West) expressed India´s satisfaction that CELAC’s first overseas engagement is with India. The recently concluded CELAC-India Dialogue had identified several areas on the economy, science, education, etc. We need to activate forums on these sectors as well as contacts between and think tanks on both sides. Political will is evident in the engagement and India is looking forward to engaging with LAC. Venezuelan Coordinator, while answering queries pointed out that the strategic alliance between the two is the symbol of the political will present in the region. The increase in trade and commerce and with cultural exchanges, the mediums of communications will also develop with more air and sea connectivity between the two.

The LAC leaders on the seminar upheld the principles of peace, equality and freedom of Jawaharlal Nehru and wished to learn from India’s democracy, sovereignty and its unity inspite of its diversity. The seminar ended with a note on behalf of Ambassador Bhatia, who termed it as a very satisfying discussion which underlined the need of a constant effort of dialogue between the two regions to further enrich the relationship between the two and the huge turnout for the event only showed the importance of Troika and scope for further dialogues and exchanges of ideas.

The seminar, which took place just a day after the India LAC Meet, was able to cover the major points which could help in the strengthening the relationship between India and LAC countries in the future.

The cardinal points of the seminar are as follows-

1. Troika, themselves took the initiative in organizing the Meet and the subsequent dialogues between the two regions.

2. The main speaker for this occasion was H.E. Alfredo Moreno Charme, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Chile, which currently holds the Presidency of CELAC. Through power point presentation he underlined the importance of commercial and cultural relationships between the two regions and how it can be beneficial for both.

3. He was joined by other members of the Troika - H.E. Abelardo Cueto Sosa, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba, which will assume the Presidency in 2013, and Mr. Ernesto Serrano, Coordinator of Political and Bilateral Affairs of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, both of whom displayed their left leaning policies.

4. Shri M. Ganapathi, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, was also present at the seminar and pointed towards the growing political will in the region.

5. The large turnout at the seminar showcased the growing interests and importance of the region in India and it ended with the hope of further improving the relationship between India and the CELAC countries.


Report by:    Ms. Sohinee Basak, Research Intern, Indian Council of World Affairs