Argentina is synonymous with football and tango. Football is God in this South American country, it not just charms, it overwhelms. Statues of Maradona, Messi and Batistuta decorate Buenos Aires and other cities. Soccer inspires devotion among ‘believers’. Argentina is also a tango nation. It celebrates ‘Tango National Day’. It has a ‘Tango Monument’ and tango has been declared as UNESCO’s’ Cultural World Heritage.’ A major Latin American nation, Argentina’s voice counts in regional affairs and its foreign policy has given it prestige and weight in global affairs.
Argentina under President Mauricio Macri has been working to diversify its trade relations with a large number of countries. Argentina is back in the corridors of multilateral diplomacy. Only a few months ago, it successfully hosted the G20 Summit. Given the global shifts in economic and political power from West to East, Argentina has followed a conscious policy to move closer to Asian powers.
It is against this backdrop, President Macri’s visit to India needs to be understood and analysed. Mr. Macri has taken steps to improve the investment climate so as to attract the much needed capital as also to forge constructive and mutually beneficial partnerships. Given the growing international profile of India and its impressive economic performance, Buenos Aires is looking at India as a potential partner. The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Macri’s visit was therefore quite significant. He was accompanied by a 100-odd delegation of business leaders and held meeting with Indian CEOs in Mumbai is very high on the agenda.
Compared to most Latin American countries, there has been regular exchange of bilateral visits between India and Argentina at the highest levels. Only last November, Prime Minister Modi was in Buenos Aires to attend the G20 Summit. The two leaders have good rapport as they have met on several occasions. Argentina has been very supportive of India’s membership of the much coveted Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
President Macri’s talks with Prime Minister Modi have found positive reflection in the joint statement. What is notable in the discussions between the two countries is their commitment to explore newer avenues of cooperation such as defence, nuclear and space sectors. Argentina sees vegetable, fruit, fisheries and wine sectors potentially beneficial in its dealings with India. As per authoritative reports, lithium is also very high on Mr. Macri’s agenda as India is very keen to make a mark in the renewable energy sector. Argentina has large deposits of lithium which is critically important for India as it is hugely moving in the electric vehicle sector.
Both sides have shown their commitment to strengthening bilateral strategic partnership in key sectors like energy, mining, agribusiness and food security, space and nuclear cooperation among others. The two-way investment flows have shown encouraging signs in recent years. The two countries have therefore done well to expedite signing the bilateral investment treaty and the double taxation avoidance agreement. Leading Indian companies like TCS, Wipro, CRISIL, Bajaj, Cognizant Technologies, etc. are now operating successfully in Argentina. In the pharma sector Argentina can be a serious partner as Argentinian pharma companies do more business than the MNCs.
India has done well to push its trade ties with Latin America as this region is equally keen to diversify its ties with India. Happily, there has been a huge jump in trade with the region .The volume of China’s trade with Latin America has reached over $ 300 billion. What is remarkable about India’s engagement with Latin America is not the volume of trade or exports per se, but its composition. India clearly sets itself apart from China, showing a growing and unusually high share of services in total exports in recent years.
India’s growing global footprint now finds place in Latin America’s policy discussions. It says a lot for the future of India’s engagements with the region. India however, needs to catch up in terms of trade and commercial ties.
Script: Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Director, Institute Of Social Sciences.