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Transcript of Special Briefing by Secretary (East) on upcoming visit of President of Brazil to India (January 23, 2020)

January 24, 2020

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, good afternoon and welcome back. As you are aware President Bolsonaro of Brazil will be on a state visit to India from 24th till 27th January. He is going to be the Chief Guest for our Republic Day. To brief you on the visit I have with me Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh and also Joint Secretary (LAC) Ms. Gloria Gangte. We will have the initial remarks by Secretary (East) and then we will open the floor to questions. Ma’am, the floor is yours.

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Good afternoon and since this is the first time we are meeting, a very happy new year to you. And since we are meeting just ahead of Republic Day warm greetings on the occasion of Republic Day.

The President of Brazil, H.E. Jair Bolsonaro, will be on a State visit to India from 24-27 January and he will be the Chief Guest at our Republic Day celebrations. This will be the First high level visit of the year to India. President Bolsonaro will be accompanied by 8 Ministers, 4 members of the Brazilian Parliament, senior officials and a very large business delegation.

This is the third time that a Brazilian President will be our Chief Guest at the Republic Day. The last time we had a Brazilian President as chief guest was in 2004. This is the first visit of President Bolsonaro to India after he assumed office on 01 January 2019. But Prime Minister Modi and he have had an occasion to meet twice – one, on the sidelines of G20 meeting at Osaka in June and second, at the BRICS Summit in Brasilia in November 2019.

Now, India and Brazil have very warm and friendly relations. And as two democracies, we have shared approaches, we have shared values. Our bilateral relations were elevated to a level of a Strategic Partnership in 2006. And as two developing countries we have similar developmental and global aspirations. This has led to convergence of mutual interest in many areas. The relations are strong not only at the bilateral level, but also at the plurilateral level, we are both members of BRICS, IBSA and G20, and in the multilateral fora also we coordinate, particularly in the United Nations.

Now, Brazil is a big country, the largest country in Latin America. It has a population of 210 million with USD 1.8 trillion economy, which again is the largest in Latin America. It is a country rich in natural resources, minerals, oil & gas. It is also a leading producer of ethanol with a very strong track record in the technological field.

Our bilateral engagements are multi-faceted. They extend from political, economic, defence & security issues, to cooperation in the fields of agriculture, space, health and food processing. We have institutional mechanisms in place for dialogues to carry forward cooperation in many fields; we have for example, Foreign Office Consultations, we have the Trade Monitoring Mechanism, and we have Joint Working Groups in many areas.

Our economic engagement has been growing. The current trade levels are USD 8.2 billion. India is exporting about USD 3.8 billion, which includes agro-chemicals, synthetic yarns, auto parts, pharmaceuticals and some petroleum products. Brazil’s exports to India are USD 4.4 billion, and these include crude oil, gold, vegetable oil, bulk minerals and ores.

The total Indian investment in Brazil of Indian companies is about $6 billion. We have put out this information earlier in a press release as well while the Brazilian investments in India are around $1 billion. But given the complementarities and the synergies that exist between our two economies, we believe that the potential is much more.

There would be an interaction between the business delegation that is accompanying the President with their Indian counterparts at the India-Brazil Business Forum, which would be a platform where businesses from the two sides can discuss and have a better understanding of opportunities that exist and to work towards business partnerships.

Coming to the energy sector, which is the area in which we have collaboration both in the oil & gas as well as in the renewable energy side, we will be looking at Bio-fuels also and working together in that area. If we look at it we have a 'National Bio-fuel Policy' and Brazil also has its own 'Renova Bio' Programme and both of them have embedded in them the possibility of ethanol blending with gasoline. So here also we find that there would be areas of cooperation and we could have exchange of knowledge as well as technology in this field.

We have ongoing Defence Cooperation as well as Space Cooperation as I mentioned earlier and we would look at how to strengthen these. And also we would be looking at strengthening our cooperation that exists in Science & technology, in innovations and start-ups.

And even as I am speaking I thought I would inform you that we do have a program which is currently underway. It is the first edition of Maitri. Now Maitri is an Indo-Brazil Agritech Cross-Incubation Program. In that we have five startups from Brazil, five startups from India and they would visit the other country. They would come here and Indian scientists will go there to see how we can look at more innovative practices in agriculture.

The other areas which will be the focus of discussion; in our relationship, they have been and will continue to be: that is agriculture, food processing and animal husbandry. We do have a Joint Working Group in Agriculture where we look at possible areas of cooperation. Even if we look at Animal Husbandry we share the same genetic heritage. We have Indian breeds like Gir and Kankrej which were exported to Brazil many centuries ago.

Even at the people to people level, there is broad appreciation of each other. Football for example: the Brazilian football team is followed very closely by Indian football fans. And in Brazil there is great interest in Indian culture as well as in our Yoga and Ayurveda. A very big conference - the Third Ayurveda conference - was held in Brazil which had a participation of 4000 participants, which shows the growing interest there. We also have an Indian Cultural Centre which was established by ICCR in Sao Paulo in Brazil, and that was the first cultural center established in the Latin American region.

Let me now go through the program of President Bolsonaro. President will arrive on 24 January. On 25 January, he will be accorded a Ceremonial Welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan. He would then visit Raj Ghat. This would be followed by official talks with Prime Minister Modi, and thereafter we will see an exchange of agreements as well as press statements by both the leaders. Prime Minister would be hosting a lunch for the visiting delegation. We would also have on 25th January the EAM as well as the Vice-President call on President Bolsonaro. And, President Bolsonaro will have meeting with Hon’ble President Ram Nath Kovind Ji, who would be hosting a banquet at Rashtrapati Bhawan. So that is the day of engagement, 25th of January.

On 26 January, President Bolsonaro would be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade and he would of course be also attending the At Home hosted by the Hon’ble President. The following day, 27 January, will be the India-Brazil Business Forum. I mentioned that earlier and President Bolsonaro will be the Keynote Speaker there. And, that day itself President would be leaving for Agra and from there onwards he would depart from India.

So if you look at it, the visit of President Bolsonaro is extremely important visit. It will be an opportunity to re-energize our Strategic Partnership and take it forward in a very focused manner. And, we have a very positive and forward looking agenda to build stronger ties with Brazil.

I would end there and take questions. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Ma’am thank you very much. I will open the floor to questions.

Question: How many MoUs are expected to be signed and which are the areas, and just one more question. There is a delegation, there is a section on defence cooperation which will take place on Monday during the business meet, can you tell us something more about it?

Question: Ma’am, there's also been an interest from the Brazilian side to expand the preferential trade agreement that India has with Latin American countries, any word on that?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: The first question relates to the agreements. As I said we have a very ambitious agenda and we are looking at a number of agreements in a number of areas and they are under discussion and we are close to finalization and after the discussion between the leaders we would have the list that we can share with you.

As far as defense is concerned that's been our area in which there possibilities of collaboration. We already have a Joint Defense Committee under which we have had a number of rounds of discussions. At the last round of discussions it was agreed to set up a joint working group on defense industrial production. So we will see how we can work together in that area. We are also expecting a Brazilian delegation to be participating in the Defex, which is in February.

And the last question about the PTA, yes we do have a PTA with Mercosur and we are looking at how to expand it. It is a matter under discussion and this one we would be taking it up with the Brazilian side during the course of the discussions, but we are eager to expand the PTA with Mercosur.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you ma'am. Yes please.

Question: Considering that the President is such a controversial figure, why did we invite him? I mean I understand that we have very good relations with Brazil, but wasn't there anybody else to choose?

Question: Yesterday in the cabinet briefing it was told that India and Brazil will sign four MoUs. So can you just elaborate what are the four MoU, and are you signing more than that?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: On MoU, she has already replied I think we will share the list at a later stage.

Question: Any possibility of an India Brazil agreement and cooperation and facilitation of investments. I believe this is something that has also been discussed prior to this visit, could we see a signing, a conclusion?

Question: Both countries are also claimants to the permanent seat in the UN Security Council. How important is that an issue that will come up for discussions, can you tell us something about that please?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Let me start with the first question. President Bolsonaro is an elected leader in a democratic country which is emerging power in the region. It is the country with whom we have very strong and substantive relations, many areas of convergence that we have between India and Brazil. We give great importance to engaging with Brazil and its leaders to take forward areas of convergence and to build our relationship. So we will be engaging with leaders to build this relationship forward and as far as President Bolsonaro is concerned he's committed to building this relationship. We will be warmly welcoming him as an honored guest to the Republic day and it is a sign of his commitment to building the relationship between the two countries.

As far as the issue relating to agreements is concerned, there would be more than four agreements, I can indicate that to you. There would be agreements including relating to how to promote investment so that is also very much on the agenda and we look forward to seeing how we can conclude those negotiations. So it is a positive agenda, you will see positive outcomes but we would brief you after the discussions between the leaders are concluded.

As far as G4 is concerned entirely agree with you India and Brazil are members of G4 we are working together to see how to move forward the agenda at the United Nations. We consult each other regularly on that but in the meantime I can tell you that Brazil has also supported our non-permanent candidacy for non-permanent member of the Security Council for 21-22. So it is something we continue to engage but it is an agenda we are working together at the United Nations.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Maybe last set of three or four questions.

Question: Ma'am, you spoke about football and the interest, now Pele is very unwell and Zico has family problems, these are the two greatest Brazilian footballers so neither could be even approached but there was a possibility of approaching two other footballers, one of them was captain of a Brazilian winning team. So where does that stand, are they coming with the president, thank you.

Question: Ma'am, we are having a very good relationship with Brazil over the last few years and both the large economies actually are hit by economic slowdown in the last two years. What Brazil's economy is slowing down India is also having the same issue so what will the focus of the visit of the Brazilian president, is it going to be economic collaboration to boost economies of border countries? So what will be the overarching focus of the Brazilian President's visit to India?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: First question only shows and reaffirms what I said, there is great interest in India about the Brazilian football team. So much so you know the issues relating to the various members of the team, so I would take it as a reflection of the interest that India has in the Brazilian team. I am not quite sure who would be coming along with president from the Brazilian football team but I'm sure that this topic will keep cropping up during the course of the visit.

Question Contd.: Are there any footballers accompanying the Brazilian President ?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: No, not to my knowledge, no. And as far as the second question is concerned which is regarding the broad framework, see as far there is a global downturn and in that context there are countries which are looking at how to step up the engagement. As far as Brazil is concerned I mentioned to you its strengths. Its strengths are important in terms of as we look at India in terms of energy security, in terms of food security, so that would be an issue we would be looking forward to seeing how we can work with Brazil.

And as far as Brazil is concerned of course it is a question you would even ask the Brazilian side but I can assure you that they look at India as a strong partner, and a partner with whom they want to engage and they want to step up relations economically, politically and as well as cooperation in as many fields as can be possible. So the broad framework is, you have a strategic partnership and how to make that strategic partnership more focused and to bring, as I said, reinvigorated between two countries which are very important within in the world and within their own regions.

Question: Did you say that there will be some members of the soccer team accompanying the President?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: I said there were members of parliament coming.

Question: You mentioned the area of energy, can you please elaborate on what kind of energy cooperation are we looking at, hydrocarbons, ethanol etc. how are we looking at Brazil in terms of boosting our energy security?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: See, as far as Brazil is concerned it has a lot of oil and gas. Our Indian companies are already present there they have an investment close to $3.5 billion in the hydrocarbon sector and we are looking at renewable energy. In terms of working with them, Brazil has become a member of the International Solar Alliance so we could look at how to look at that aspect but we're looking at biofuels also, so that's an area as I mentioned to you that Brazil has been one country which has been at the forefront of ethanol production and using it for their transportation system and we are also looking at, as I mentioned to you, at the National Biofuel Policy, how to use ethanol mixed with the gasoline. So that would be another area and the third area we are looking at is in minerals. So let us see that what kind of any understanding we can work on that areas.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Okay, the last one goes to you.

Question: Ma’am both countries are in very far removed regions, you have issues in each other's continents to be discussed, for instance Venezuela, would that come up for discussion with the President? And would we be discussing issues like terrorism and you know which are of interest to us in this part of the world, will you tell us something about that please?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: As far as terrorism is concerned we would be discussing issues relating to terrorism and it's very much on the agenda. We have been already discussing terrorism with them including at the UN for the CCIT, so that'll be on the agenda. As far as regional developments are concerned, there could be an exchange of views but at this stage I cannot say exactly what the issues regional issues, they are leaders, they will take up issues relating, naturally, to regional developments as well as to global developments.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: This concludes the special briefing. Ma'am, Gloria, thank you and thank you all for joining.


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