Focus India-LAC - January 2018

Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Maria Angela Holguin visited India 6-9 November, along with Colombia’s Commerce Minister. They met India’s External Affairs and Commerce Ministers. India’s trade with Colombia – a member of the market-friendly Pacific Alliance along with Mexico, Peru and Chile - has been erratic. India principal import - crude oil - has dropped from $1.77 billion in 2014-15 to $273 million in 2016-17. Exports fell to $785 million in 2016-17, from $900 million the year before, but may pick up. Indian companies are present in automobiles, hydrocarbons, pharma, chemicals, software and other sectors. The Colombian side reciprocated India’s earlier interest in a preferential tariff agreement. India’s Department of Commerce is working on a new template which may include services.
The “lithium triangle” of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia could become a focus, according to analysts. The National Institute for Transformation of India (NITI Aayog), in a report on Indian Energy Storage Mission,  claims “to achieve large-scale domestic production of EVs (electric vehicles), India will need to forge international partnerships and joint ventures (JVs) to secure access to key materials in line with its own battery making technology and roadmap…” JV’s with these countries and long-term supply contracts for lithium at concessional rates could be a way forward. China is already moving in that direction.
Venezuela’s PdVSA has not made debt payments to India’s ONGC (Videsh) Ltd (OVL) for six months on a US$ 540 million backlog of dividend payments. ONGC’s Mangalore refinery is unable to process Venezuela’s heavy crude, so it cannot take delivery of the oil produced by its joint venture with PdVSA. Reliance Industries Ltd, which buys millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil, reportedly paid OVL US$ 68.66 million on behalf of PdVSA in April 2017. OVL is reluctant to walk away from the largest oil reserves worldwide and is even considering more investment in the joint venture to enhance production. Venezuela’s exports to India (98 percent oil) slumped from $13.94 billion in 2014-15 to $5.51 billion in 2016-17, as did India’s exports ($258 million to $62 million) with pharma companies, the principal exporters, facing problems of payments.
India and Cuba signed a MOU on enhanced cooperation in health sector on 7 December during the visit of Cuba’s Minister of Public Health. The MOU provides for exchanges, training, regulatory cooperation, procurement, research, etc. in this sector. Cuba has expertise in bio-pharma but lacks capital. It has developed some path-breaking formulations against cancer, diabetes, etc. and its scientists have collaborated with Indian institutions and the private sector (Biocon).
Indian private sector player Sterlite Power won a tender in December in Brazil, to erect more than 1,800 km of transmission lines in the northern states of Pará and Tocantins. This is Sterlite’s third contract in Brazil, where it has already invested over a billion dollars, and a sign of maturity of India’s private sector in Latin America. The contract is worth $800 million.
UNO Minda Group, a Tier 1 Indian auto components supplier announced a $15 million expansion of its Mexico plant manufacturing horns for several carmakers in Querétaro. Mexico is a major importer of motor vehicles and components from India - $1.3 billion January-August 2017 v/s $727 million in 2015. It offers significant potential for auto parts, given the value chains set up through NAFTA, and to the south through the Pacific Alliance.




January 9, 2018

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About the Author

Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani

Former Ambassador of India to Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre

Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1978. He retired in February 2012. During his career, he was accredited as Ambassador in seven Latin American countries, resident in Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, concurrent in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and was Consul General in Sao Paulo. He served abroad in three Continents – Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia), Europe (Spain and Czech Republic) and Latin America.

In the Ministry of External Affairs, he served in the Divisions dealing with Administration; West Asia and North Africa; US and Canada; and had a brief stint at the United Nations.

Ambassador Bhojwani also served as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Mr P.V.Narasimha Rao for two years from 1994 to 1996, and as Special Assistant to the Minister of State for External Affairs and for Science and Technology, Mr K.R.Narayanan, from 1985 till 1988.

He writes extensively on Latin America and its relations with India. He has written a book published in 2015 titled ‘Latin America, the Caribbean and India: Promise and Challenge’.

He is currently a Consultant for Latin America and the Caribbean through his firm LATINDIA (

Ambassador Bhojwani also serves as Independent Director on the Board of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., one of the largest state oil and gas companies of India.

Since January 2017 he has been Country Manager and Director, Magotteaux Industries Pvt. Ltd.

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