Focus India-LAC - March 2019

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri visited Delhi and Mumbai on 18 and 19 February to commemorate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations and revive a relationship that was stagnating before PM Modi’s visit in October last year for the G20 summit. Ten documents were signed - including cooperation in defence, space and nuclear technology - and a Special Declaration on Terrorism “particularly emphasizing the scourge of cross border terrorism”. Reflecting Argentina’s opposition to the G4 proposal for the UN Security Council expansion, the joint declaration after the talks made no mention of India’s claim but “reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council, including its expansion to make it more representative, accountable, effective, and reflective of the geopolitical realities of the 21st century”.

India’s Joint Venture of three public sector mining companies, Khanij Videsh India Limited (KABIL) may be the spearhead for lithium mining in Argentina. Under a 2009 Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, there is an ongoing Fission Molly Project and a molybdenum plant to be built in Mumbai by the Argentine company INVAP by 2020. Argentina has the world’s second largest shale gas deposits, but holds exploitation rights in government hands. ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Argentina's YPF to analyze opportunities for cooperation in the upstream sector in Argentina, India and other countries. OVL has started exploration in nearly 50 blocks, while Oil India is working on 3 blocks in Argentina's major shale reserves. There was emphasis on renewable, particularly solar energy.

While Argentina is a significant trading partner of India, almost 90 percent of its exports comprise edible oils. After decades, Indian pharma managed to get a foothold in that market. Infrastructure projects in Argentina, and Argentina’s  agricultural exports were discussed - especially fruits. 

On 25 January, the official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, in response to a question from the media on the situation in Venezuela, said India was ‘…. closely following the situation…it is for the people of Venezuela to find a political solution…without resorting to violence…’. Clearly India will be interested in the fate of a regime which owes the Indian national oil company, OVL over 400 million dollars in back dividends and which exports over 25 percent of its oil production to India. Venezuela’s Minister of Petroleum, Manuel Quevedo, visited India during Petrotech 2019, an event held every two years by the Indian hydrocarbons industry. The Venezuelans briefed the media claiming they would enhance their oil sales and supply oil to India in exchange for payment through currency or “other transferable methods and channels”, interpreted as barter. In fact, the meeting with India’s Minister of Petroleum was very short and apparently resulted in no commitments. US sanctions kick in from 28 April to bar payments to Venezuela for oil through the US financial system. India currently imports around $6 billion worth annually, all of it by Reliance Industries and Nayara (former Essar), the latter majority owned by Russia’s Rosneft. Exports to Venezuela have been less than $100 million annually for several years. Quevedo’s visit was noted by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who tweeted that nations and firms that supported the Maduro regime’s theft of Venezuela’s resources “will not be forgotten”


March 13, 2019

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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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