Distinguished Lectures Distinguished Lectures

India-Brazil Relations

  • Ambassador (Retd.)  R. Viswanathan

    By: Ambassador (Retd.) R. Viswanathan
    Venue: Centre for Latin America Studies, University of Kerala
    Date: April 26, 2022

Kerala and Latin America I welcome the initiative of the University of Kerala in establishing a Latin America Study Centre. Kerala has been taking active interest in Latin American literature, politics and football.

The Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s novel " One hundred years of solitude” was a best seller in Kerala. Malayalam writer OV Vijayan is compared to Marquez in Magical Realism genre of writing.

Socialist ideology has played a key role in the politics of Kerala and Latin America. Kerala and Chile were the first in the history of the cold war era to elect leftist governments in 1957 and 1970 respectively. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are admired in Kerala as leftist icons.

Keralites follow Latin American football and the fans take sides during world cups cheering for Brazil and Argentina. The hotel in Calicut where Maradona had stayed during his visit has been made as a shrine.

UST Global, an IT company from Trivandrum has operations in Mexico. Former president Vincent Fox has helped the company settle down in Mexico. Robin Kanattu Thomas, a young IT entrepreneur from Kerala has spent some years in Santigo, Chile developing his start-up "Astro International” with the support of Chilean government as part of their "Start-Up Chile” programme.

Cardamom seeds were taken from Kerala to Guatemala in the nineteenth century and planted there. Today, Guatemala has become the world’s largest exporter competing with India. Rubber was brought from Brazil and planted in Kerala. Now, Kerala exports rubber to Brazil.

There are growing people-to-people contacts. There are a number of young Keralite IT professionals working in various parts of Latin America with Indian and Multinational IT firms. Some of them have married locals and settled there. There are over hundred Keralite catholic priests and nuns working in various countries of Latin America. Dr Natarajan Pillai of Kochi has written three books on Latin America, describing his experience of Latin America where he has spent 130 days during six trips.

Brazil- a unique country and emerging power

Brazil continues to enjoy many distinct advantages and stronger fundamentals in comparison to the existing global powers as well as the other emerging powers.

Brazil is an authentic ‘power for peace’ anchored in solid foundation and strong fundamentals of peace, as evident from the following:

-Brazil is the only major power which has not had a war in the last 150 years. This means that Brazil does not have the hubris and hang over of the victors or the grudge and rancor of the vanquished.

-The Brazilian armed forces have a unique and enviable challenge in their military doctrine. They cannot find any enemy countries to target against, in their military strategy. So they focus on perceived vulnerabilities of the country.

- Brazil is not considered as an enemy by any country or neighbor. Despite having border with ten out of the twelve South American countries, Brazil does not have any territorial disputes with neighbours. They do not face a hostile or unstable neighborhood like what India is burdened with.

-Brazil is lucky that it is very far from the global hotspots of conflicts and instability. The region is free from nuclear arms and threat of wars unlike in some parts of Asia, Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

-Brazil is free from the curse of terrorism. It did not experience a 9/11 or attack on parliament or subway or Marathon.

-Brazil does not face any domestic conflicts or separatist movements arising from religious, ethnic, linguistic divisions. It has one religion and one language. It has no extremist fundamentalist groups which threaten most of the other major powers.

Food and energy security

Some powers such as China, India, Japan and Germany face challenges arising from food and energy security concerns and their dependence on imports. But Brazil is not only self sufficient but also has surplus for exports.

Brazil is an agricultural super power. It is the world´s largest exporter of beef, chicken, sugar, soya, orange juice and coffee besides being a significant exporter of soya, maize, cotton, tobacco, bananas, pork and ethanol. Brazil can increase production and exports and feed several hundred more million people of the world. It has lot of surplus land which could be brought under agriculture without touching Amazon. The Brazilian climate and regional variations make it possible to grow 2-3 crops throughout the year. The country is blessed with abundant (20% of global fresh water reserves) water resources. The rainfall is reasonable and most of the agriculture is rain-fed. With Embrapa’s advanced research and development, Brazil has brought under cultivation millions of hectares of arid land in Matto Grosso.

Brazil has emerged as a global player in energy. Like India, Brazil was dependent upon crude oil imports in the seventies. The credit goes to Petrobras’s innovative competence in deep sea drilling and production technology with which pre-salt reserves have been discovered.

Brazil gets nearly two thirds of its electricity from hydro electric projects. Itaipu alone has capacity to generate 14000 MW. There is scope to produce even more hydroelectric power.

Brazil is a pioneer and global leader in the use of sugar cane ethanol as fuel. With the use of ethanol, Brazil has cut down petrol use by fifty percent and has also reduced pollution. Most of the new vehicles in Brazil have flexifuel engines. Sugar cane ethanol is more fuel efficient and environment-friendly than the corn ethanol used in US.

Brazil is the fifth biggest country in area and population and the seventh largest economy in the world. It has a large, diverse and strong base of agriculture, manufacturing, mineral wealth, services and exports. Its survival is not dependent upon any single commodity or just exports.

Brazil has the world's largest forest cover in Amazon, which contributes twenty percent of earth´s oxygen and has become the lungs of our planet.

It has abundant mineral wealth and has large reserves of minerals such as iron ore, tin , copper, bauxite, manganese and gold.

Brazil enjoys a moderate and agreeable climate and does not suffer from extreme heat or cold. It has some of the best beaches in the world.

More importantly, Brazil is not prone to extreme natural calamities such as earthquakes, cyclones, tornados, volcanoes or typhoons.

Brazilian spirit

Brazilians are cheerful, joyful, colourful and playful. This is brought out in the annual Carnival celebrations, the largest and most colourful show in the world.

Brazil is a country of predominantly young population and does not have the problems of ageing and decline in skilled human resources faced by countries such as Germany and Japan.

The Brazilians mix easily with people around the world and get along happily. The free mixing of people of European, African (the largest outside Africa), Japanese (the largest outside Japan) and Arab origin has made Brazil a true melting pot.

Some major powers are weighed down by their historical baggage and long traditions. But the Brazilians never look back. They are forward looking and open in their outlook.

India- Brazil relations

India started paying attention to Brazil after democracy was restored in 1985 and after the economy was stabilized in 1994. On the other hand, Brazil started perceiving India as an IT powerhouse, pharmacy of the world and as an emerging global power after India’s economic liberalization in the first half of the nineties. The two countries now view each other as strategic partners.

Brazil is India’s largest trading partner and export destination in Latin America. India’s exports in 2021-22 were about 6 billion dollars, which are more than India’s exports to France, Japan and Thailand. India’s main exports are pharmaceuticals, chemicals, vehicles, petroleum products and equipments and machinery. Brazil contributes to India’s energy and food security through supply of crude oil, edible oil and pulses. It is also a source of minerals and gold imports for India.

Indian companies have invested over four billion dollars in Brazil in energy, agrochemicals, metals and pharmaceuticals. The largest Indian agrochemical firm UPL has a larger turnover of 1.2 billion dollars than their India operations which are less than a billion. Brazilian companies such as Perto and Stefanini have invested in India. India has bought Brazilain Embraer aircrafts.

India has signed agreements with Brazil for cooperation in many areas such as agriculture, energy and space

There is active cultural interaction between the two countries. There are hundreds of thousands of Brazilians who practice yoga and meditation and follow Indian Gurus such as Sai Baba, SriSri Ravi Shankar and Amma. Bollywood films and dancing have become popular in Brazil. There have been some Brazilian actresses who have acted in Bollywood movies.

Palas Atena, a non-governmental organization in Sao Paulo has been celebrating Gandhi Jayanthi every year for the last thirty years and has been propagating Gandhian ideals of non-violence among students, prisoners and police.

Indian football clubs have hired dozens of Brazilian football players and coaches.

Brazil as a global partner


India views Brazil as an ideal global partner. India perceives Brazil as a peaceful and benign power, without past sins or future threats. It appreciates Brazil’s open and pragmatic approach in a non-prescriptive and non-polarising way and its firm belief in a multipolar world and multilateralism. They have common worldview and aspirations and face similar challenges. Both of them are role models for democracy in their respective regions. They have coopted South Africa, another example of democracy in the unique tricontinental IBSA partnership. Over the years, India and Brazil have built up rapport in working together in many global fora and multilateral negotiations. They had taken initiatives for UNSC reforms and presented their candidatures to permanent membership along with Germany and Japan.

Conclusion

India and Brazil are still in the initial stage of discovery and exploration of complementarities and synergies. Both countries have similar developmental challenges, common goals and mutual respect and admiration for each other. There is enormous scope for mutual win-win partnership in the long term.