The importance of Brazil to India
By Tarun Basu,
Brasilia, Sep 13 (IANS) Why is Brazil, known in India mainly for its football and samba dancers, of importance to India? Because it is the largest economy in Latin America, having abundant natural resources, the largest and best equipped defence forces in the region and a stable democracy that is still rare in this part of the world. In fact the two countries are discovering complementarities that are fast bridging the continental distances between them.
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here Monday on his first visit to the country - the first by an Indian head of government in 38 years after Mrs Indira Gandhi came here in 1968 - he talked not only of a country that he said had "fascinated me personally" but of growing "complementarities" that India is discovering, drawn by the country's agricultural prowess, its achievements in energy security and the fact that it is becoming the major power in the region wooed by the United States, China and others.
"From the Indian point of view, it is clear that if the Indian economy is to grow at 8-10 percent in the next few years, we will need the natural resources, which a large and rich country like Brazil can offer," says an Indian diplomat here.
Brazil is not only one of the 10 largest economies but is the world's largest producer of coffee, oranges and sugarcane, home to the largest forestry-based industry in Latin America, has large reserves of iron ore, bauxite, manganese, tin and gold, is among the world's top producers of foodstuffs and is also among the largest producers of shoes, soda drinks, commercial aircraft, steel and automobiles.
The nine agreements and MoUs signed between the two countries Tuesday will for the first time lay down frameworks of cooperation in agriculture, trade and investment, energy, including use of ethanol and bio diesel, defence, science and technology, space research, health, housing, tourism and culture, aviation and oil exploration among other issues.
India's remarkable success in the last few years and the growing attention to India in the Brazilian media have changed the image of the country from a poverty-stricken, backward nation to an emerging power with which cooperation is in mutual interest.
Large Brazilian corporations are looking at India like never before. These include Marcopolo, a major auto company, that has tied up with Tata Motors to make buses and trucks in India, Stefanini, a major IT company, that has already begun operations in Hyderabad, Petrobras, the oil company that has tied up with India's ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), and CVRD, one of the largest mining entities and the world's largest iron ore producer that has also opened in India, while major food processing companies like Sadia and Caramaru are looking for investment opportunities in India.
Similarly, Indian companies like TCS, Ranbaxy and Dr ReddyÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â´s have investments in Brazil in IT and pharmaceuticals while OVL, the overseas arm of oil exploration major ONGC, is seeking to acquire a 15 percent stake in an offshore block in southeastern Brazil.
What is giving the ties a strategic dimension is the cooperation emerging in the defence sector. Indian Army chief Gen J.J. Singh visited Brazil in May this year in what was the first visit by an Indian service chief to not only Brazil but the entire region. The two countries are now working out collaboration in training and joint exercises, defence technology, the war against terrorism and other institutionalised cooperation in the form of a Joint Defence Committee.
With a 300,000 strong armed force and its past history of army rule, Brazil's defence forces are reputed to be the best in the region, although it does not have any territorial dispute with any of its 10 neighbours.
The two countries have already been working closely in the diplomatic field through the G-4 group on UN Security Council reforms and in the WTO where they are seeking liberalisation of agricultural imports by developing countries and trying to ensure equitable international trade.
So strong has been their voice and leadership of developing nations that Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath jokingly told some Brazilian journalists here "we (Brazil and India) are the WTO...."
The growing ties have started getting reflected in bilateral trade that registered a 100 percent increase over 2004. Current two-way trade stands at around $2.5 billion and is expected to touch $10 billion in the next five years if the present growth rate is maintained.
The bilateral trade does not reflect what are called the big-ticket items like petroleum, possible joint production of aircraft, cooperation in infrastructure such as railways and Indian investment in IT and pharmaceuticals.
Cooperation in football will start taking place after this visit - although Brazil is the world's number one football power and India is ranked a lowly 130 in world football rankings. This was reflected in the cultural agreement signed between the countries Tuesday.
"Brazil's importance lies in its ability to help India attain food security and energy security," Hardeep Singh Puri, the Indian ambassador to Brazil, told IANS.
"As continental-sized countries which share common developmental challenges, problems relating to social diversity, equity and large populations, Brazil and India stand poised to discover the truly amazing potential in their bilateral relationship," says Puri.