Focus India-LAC - July 2018

President R. N. Kovind’s visit to Suriname and Cuba in June was a feeble attempt to reiterate India’s ‘interest’ in the LAC region. Considering the scanty number of high level visits to the region, Indian VVIP visits to Cuba have been fairly impressive. Vice President Ansari’s visit in 2015 was preceded by PM Manmohan Singh in 2006 and EAM S M Krishna in 2012. Considering the extremely low economic value of the relationship (around $40 million trade annually, zero Indian investment after ONGC exited Cuba in 2014), a visit to sign agreements on biology and medicine may appear extravagant to countries where India can have a greater stake. The visit to Suriname was clearly to consolidate India’s links with a diaspora that makes little economic contribution to India.

Another outreach attempt was the first official overseas visit of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu to Guatemala, Panama and Peru 6 to 11 May. Indian exports, particularly pharma, figured in his conversations. Peru is especially important as a growing trade partner for India, a member of the Pacific Alliance, and interested in negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement. Guatemala agreed to support India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council 2020-21, while Peru reiterated support for India’s permanent membership of the UNSC.

India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) declared to the media that Venezuela has stopped paying its dues. OVL had entered into an agreement to develop the San Cristobal oilfield in Venezuela in 2008, and thereafter in 2010 signed up to develop the even bigger Carabobo oilfield. Mismanagement by the Venezuelan government and PdVSA led to cash flow problems. OVL got $ 56.224 million for 2008, but dividends for 2009 to 2013 totalling $ 537.631 million remained unpaid. In November 2016, according to OVL’s Managing Director, PdVSA signed an agreement that provided for dues to be cleared in instalments: "We received three instalments totalling $ 88 million but subsequent ones have stopped”. As part of this agreement, OVL would help PDVSA arrange $ 318 million financing for the San Cristobal project and receive 17,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil. The larger Carabobo project - projected to peak at 400,000 bpd - languishes at 22,000 bpd because of PdVSA’s inability to finance an essential upgrader. OVL has warned that if its dues are not paid the San Cristobal project will die.



July 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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