New Delhi, Nov 29: The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region can play an important role in India’s foreign policy initiatives like membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and reforms in the UN Security Council, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh has said. “Building upon New Delhi’s dialogue with the troika of foreign ministers of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the two sides are exploring possibilities of forging an ‘India-Latin America and Caribbean Dialogue Mechanism’ similar to that of the ‘India-Africa Forum Summit’,” Singh said at the inaugural session of the Seventh India-LAC Conclave in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Monday.
“The LAC region is also critical to the ongoing drive for reforming the global governance architecture; including the reform and expansion of the UN Security Council, and India’s ambition to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group — of which Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are existing members,” he said. India’s bid for NSG membership was stalled in its June plenary in Seoul by China on the ground that for a country to become a member of the 48-nation bloc, it should be a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have all backed India’s NSG membership bid.
The membership is crucial for New Delhi in its plans for generating clean energy. This apart, Brazil is also one of the G4 nations — with India, Germany and Japan — that are seeking permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Singh said that India attached great importance to its relations with the LAC region. “India enjoys warm and friendly relations with each of the countries in the region. The economic engagement inter-twining India and the LAC region is complemented by the cultural affinities and connections,” he stated.
“The presence of about one million Indian diaspora in the LAC region adds a special dimension to the relationship.” Singh said that India and the LAC, home to around 1.8 billion people, were continuously looking to ramp up this multi-faceted engagement and open new doors for mutually invigorating partnership. He added that in an uncertain global economic landscape, India, as the world’s fastest growing economy, was betting big on Latin America as “an emerging growth pole of the world”. “With a combined GDP of over $4 trillion, the LAC region remains a formidable economic force,” Singh stated.
“The economies of most of the South American countries are growing rapidly, kindling new possibilities for business. Despite the dent in the near term economic outlook for the LAC region due to dramatic fall in oil and commodity prices, the overall sentiment remains one of optimism and possibility.” Singh stated that the LAC region was poised to grow in importance for India’s energy security as it currently accounted for around 18-20 per cent of India’s oil imports.
Stating that the India-LAC commercial relationship has grown tremendously since the turn of the 21st century, he said: “Trade has grown from $2 billion in 2001 to a high of $50 billion in 2015, and cross-county investments currently total roughly $23 billion. The fact that India’s bilateral trade with the LAC region is still a small fraction (5 per cent) of India’s total external trade as well as that of the LAC region (just 2 per cent), demonstrates the huge potential that exists to increase the bilateral trade.”
Singh pointed out that at a time when global economic growth was facing increasing downside risks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that India would be the fastest growing major economy in 2016-17, at 7.5 per cent. Wooing investors from the LAC region, he said: “India today has one of the most liberal FDI regimes in the world. The rapid liberalisation and reform efforts have also seen India’s FDI reach $55.45 billion in financial year 2015-16, a growth of 53 per cent compared to year 2013-14.””With the central government championing the cause of ease of doing business and the states competing to facilitate investment through investor friendly policies, there has never been a better time to participate in the India success story.”