Bolivia is looking to extend its footprint in South Asia and India is big on its expansion list. The South American country is setting up an embassy in New Delhi and it will follow it up with consulates in Mumbai and other key metros in the country.
“For our country, ties with the south are very important and that is what we'll be concentrating on. While we are interested in connecting with other countries in the region, India, an emerging economic power in the region, is with who we want to establish strong relations,” Jorge Cardenas Robles, ambassador of Bolivia to India told FE in his first-ever interaction here.
“President Eva Morales, Bolivia’s first president, is of Indian descent and we are culturally very rich. This will surely give me an opportunity to show what my country can offer to India and I would invite the Indian industry honchos to visit our country,” he added. “Bolivia is looking for a free-trade agreement with India. And for this the government is in the process of improving laws and the rights of water.”
“Besides going regional and working with countries under various groupings including CELAC and Mercosur, we are looking forward to not only working with state governments but are also keenly looking towards working with the SMEs,” Robles said.
Mercosur – a grouping of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay — was suspended because of its removal following the political impeachment of Fernando Lugo from presidency and Venezuela's admission during the dictated absence of Paraguay. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador are associate members while Venezuela joined officially on July 31.
According to the new envoy, since Bolivia is a land-locked country, India can use this as a gateway to sell its goods in South America. Currently, Uruguay’s port facilities for land-locked Bolivia enables La Paz to use them for storage “with no need to pay any tariffs when they are moved” to the Atlantic.
Bilateral ministerial contacts have largely been on the sidelines of meetings of international organizations. The MoS (C&I) had met Bolivian vice president in May 2000 on the sidelines of the Mercosur Economic Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Bolivian vice foreign minister Pablo Guzman visited Delhi in September 2009 to participate in an informal meeting on the Doha round of negotiations and met Indian commerce and industry minister.
Total bilateral trade between India and Bolivia in 2010-11 was