We celebrate this year seven decades of diplomatic relations with Brazil. Diplomatic relations between India and Brazil were established in 1948. Both the countries share many similarities. They are committed to democratic values and to foster economic growth with social inclusion. Their foreign policy is anchored on dialogue, peaceful resolution of conflicts and South South cooperation.
Both are developing countries and among the ten largest economies in the world. They are members of BRICS as well as of IBSA, a coalition of regional forces of the global South. BRICS includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. IBSA has the membership of India, Brazil and South Africa, the dominant powers of the Indo Atlantic region that articulate the need for maritime peace, stability and the rule of law in the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean.
In July 2015, BRICS established the New Development Bank with a capital of US 50 billion dollars, a contribution of USD 10 billion by each member country and a reserve currency pool of US 100 billion dollars. The headquarters of the Bank are in Shangai and Mr. K. V. Kamath has been appointed the President of the Bank. The Bank aims to contribute to development plans established nationally and projects that are socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. It seeks to promote infrastructure and sustainable projects with significant development impact in member countries, to establish an extensive network of global partnership with other multilateral development institutions and national development banks.
The eighth BRICS Summit was held in Goa in October 2016. It provided an opportunity to the BRICS countries to hold discussions and adopt action plans on subjects of mutual interest leading to the Goa Declaration. In furtherance of the Goa Declaration, India and Brazil signed a Social Security Agreement. This Social Security Agreement is the first such agreement among BRICS nations. The Agreement provides for equal treatment of nationals of both countries and unrestricted payment of pension even in the case of residence in the other contracting State. The Social Security Agreement will favourably impact on the profitability and competitive position of Indian and Brazilian companies with foreign operations in the other country by reducing their cost of doing business abroad.
In 2006, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Brazil on invitation of the President of Brazil. During this visit several cooperation agreements were signed. An important outcome of the meeting was the decision to initiate a bilateral strategic dialogue covering regional and global issues of mutual concern. The bilateral strategic partnership opened a new phase in India Brazil relations.
Brazil is presently the leading trade partner of India in Latin America and the Caribbean region. The India-Brazil bilateral trade has increased substantially over the last decade but there is a tremendous potential for further growth and diversification.
Both countries support each other for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and also seek an increase in the number of the non permanent members of the Council. A review of the membership of the UN Security Council and of some other organizations created in the aftermath of the Second World War such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank is sought by the two countries.
In Brazil there is great interest in India’s culture, religion, performing arts and philosophy. The first forms of Indian culture to reach Brazil were related to spirituality, philosophy and religion. Brazil has a strong community of yoga and Ayurveda practitioners. The International Day of Yoga is celebrated every year in major cities of that country. Mahatma Gandhi is highly regarded in Brazil and his statues have been installed in the major cities. An organisation called “Filhos de Gandhi” (Sons of Gandhi) is very popular in Salvador de Bahia and they take street processions wearing Gandhian attire every year.
A ten day festival of India was held last year in Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the completion of seventy years of India’s Independence. The Festival featured an exhibition on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, enthralling performances of Carnatic music by renowned Indian musicians, performances of Kathak and celebration of Indian literature. These events were attended by Brazilian government officials, Ambassadors, media personnel, culture lovers and friends of India.
The Indian community in Brazil consists of about a thousand people most of them living in the cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus. It comprises mainly of professors, businessmen and some scientists. There are about five hundred Brazilians living in India and about 60 Brazilian students are enrolled in India for ITEC programmes, communications, management, defence studies etc.
At the academic level, Brazilian and Indian Universities have displayed interest in bilateral relations. Currently the Centre for Latin American Studies at the Goa University offers a course on Brazilian politics, society and foreign policy. Similarly, some Brazilian Universities offer courses on India.
There is an Indian Cultural Centre in Sao Paulo which hosts performances and classes of Indian classical music, dance, yoga, gastronomy and the occasional Indian movie. A Brazilian Cultural Centre was inaugurated in Goa last year.
Brazil and India may also collaborate in the promotion of sports. Brazil is a global power in football. They have won the FIFA five times. They possess some of the best footballers in the world and even their youth teams are traditionally strong. India holds presently the number one ranking in the ICC and it should offer its cricket expertise to Brazil.
Whilst substantial progress has been made in bilateral relations an enhanced effort to realise the full potential of the India Brazil partnership is called for.
(The writer is a former Union Minister)