(This was originally posted in Financial Express by HUMA SIDDIQUI)
India and South American nation Guatemala met virtually on Wednesday (May 5, 2021) for the second Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) where the focus was on deepening cooperation in sectors including Science and Technology, Agriculture, Space, energy, education, health and traditional medicine and tourism. The two sides also discussed possible cooperation in — Defence & Security, International Solar Alliance (ISA) as well as cooperation with CAABI and being part of OSA (Organization of American States).
Confirming this, India’s ambassador to Guatemala BS Mubarak told Financial Express Online “Apart from other issues, the discussions also revolved around the Defence and Security sector. India has offered training for the Civil Police and briefed the Guatemalan delegation on the strengths of the Indian defence sector.”
“In the Space Sector, the Government of Guatemala has expressed interest in Resource Mapping; Forest Fire Management Training as well as Remote Sensing Training,” Mr Mubarak shared. Besides expressing interest in ISA, the Central American nation has sought India’s help in Waste Water Management.
SICA — Partial Free Trade Agreement: The two sides have evinced interest in such an agreement. This agreement will be with the six Central American Nations under SICA. During the Presidency of Guatemala for SICA in the second half of the year, the proposed agreement would be discussed with member countries.
Guatemala has invited India to take part as an observer in the OAS General Assembly which will take place later this year in Guatemala, India’s envoy to Guatemala added. The Central American nation is keen to collaborate in the import of the COVAXIN and welcomed FDI in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and IT sector.
According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, officials from both countries also reviewed the present status of bilateral relations in various fields including trade, consular, economic, political as well as cultural.
Also discussed was the COVID-19 situation and the Guatemalan side appreciated India’s role in extending assistance to the Central American nation and to other countries in the LAC region. While the Indian side was led by Ms. Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East), Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala, Mr Carlos Ramiro Martínez, led his side.
India-Guatemala Bilateral Trade
The two countries have decided to explore other sectors for expanding trade relationships.
As has been reported earlier in Financial Express Online earlier, trade is a very important pillar in the relations between the two countries, which has touched USD 314.27 million in 2019-2020 with Indian exports at USD 291.32 million and imports at USD 22.95 million.
In an earlier interaction with Financial Express Online, the Indian envoy had shared that a large number of Indian companies have been visiting the Central exploring the market and have been showcasing their products including – pharmaceutical, automobile, textiles and engineering.
In 2020, the Indian mission was perhaps the only one in the region which had held virtual meetings and exhibitions, creating an opportunity for the Indian businesses to showcase their products.
What is OAS?
There are 35 independent states of the Americas. And is considered to be the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere. According to the information available in the public domain, OAS has granted permanent observer status to 69 states, and also to the European Union (EU).
Why is SICA important?
The two sides are working towards a Customs Union, and to implement this according to officials, several measures need to be carried out which are based on the requirement of the member countries of SICA. Key areas that are critical include Food & Energy; Pharmaceuticals; Security; Space Cooperation; Aerospace; Agriculture; MSMEs, and capacity building.