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Several Agreements on the anvil when Argentinian President visits India next month

Huma Siddiqui
india argentina ties, mauricio macri, Nuclear Energy, Solar Energy, ONGC Videsh Ltd

The Argentine President Mauricio Macri is arriving on a three day visit on February 17 accompanied by a high level ministerial and business delegation. This year the two countries are celebrating their 70th year of bilateral relations.

India and Argentina will seek to further deepen and expand cooperation in wide range of sectors including renewable energy, nuclear energy, space and agriculture, aviation, mining (lithium, gold and copper), pharmaceuticals and automobiles.

After a full day of official meetings in New Delhi, President Marci will leave for Mumbai on February 19, where he will be addressing industry captains at a meeting organised by the industry chambers, besides other official engagements.

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In an exclusive interaction with the Financial Express Online, Daniel Chuburu, ambassador of Argentina to India said, During the visit of President Marci, several agreements are expected to be inked at the end of talks. Food and Energy Security are two areas of great importance to both countries. Partnership with India in food security is important. We want to partner India in these areas. Technology must also be a key component of this relationship, and this includes nuclear, radar, space, and defence components.

Both the countries have a bilateral Agreement for Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy in place, which is expected to be implemented soon.

Food Security

Different agreements are expected to be signed in this sector. Ahead of the state visit, there will be a two-day seminar organised by the Embassy of Argentina in India; the focus will be on technological cooperation in the agriculture sector, as per the envoy.

Almost 90 percent of Argentina s exports to India comprise only soya oil and the Marci government is working towards diversifying this trade basket. The South American nation has developed cutting-edge farm technologies and biotechnologies which can help India improve agriculture productivity and reduce post-harvest losses of farm produce, as well as easing of phytosanitary norms.

In an earlier interaction, Chuburu had said, There are ongoing discussions between the two countries on various projects in the agriculture sector including pulses. We have also been able to introduce new products here in India, including 2,000 tonne of apples and pears.

Energy Security

There are three related fields: Oil and gas; Renewable Energy, and Mining of Lithium. Solar Energy is the new focus in both India and Argentina and the latter is a member of International Solar Alliance (ISA), an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an aim to foster South-South Cooperation.

India has set an ambitious target of 100 GW of solar power generation by 2022 which also includes 40 GW from rooftop solar. These roof-top plants will also require batteries for storage, if the institution or household want to store the solar energy and use it in the evening. Most of the advanced storage systems, used with rooftop solar plants, currently, are lithium-ion based.

For the Solar panels, there is a huge need for Lithium batteries. Mining of Lithium in the context of energy security is very important, said the envoy.

The Marci government has opened the mining sector for FDI. Lithium is the major raw material for batteries used besides Solar panels; they are used in electric cars and India has set a goal to shift to manufacture of electric vehicles on a large scale by 2030.

Khanij Bidesh India Ltd., consortium of three PSU companies including : National Aluminum Company (NALCO), Hindustan Copper (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd., (MECL) has been formed by the government for identifying, exploring, acquiring, developing and processing strategic minerals overseas. A delegation of Khanij Bidesh India Ltd will be visiting Argentina at the end of next month for exploration opportunities in the mining of Lithium.

As has been reported earlier by FE Online, almost 100 percent of Li-ion batteries or cells are imported. Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used in portable electronic devices, solar power plants as well as electric vehicles due to their high energy density and high charge and discharge rate capabilities, as compared to other type of batteries such as Ni-MH or Lead Acid.

Civil and Nuclear Energy

With a nuclear agreement between the two countries in place, Argentina is offering to set up small nuclear plants in India, which is trying to increase the share of nuclear power in its energy mix. Both countries in 2009 had signed Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. And both have agreed to encourage and support scientific technical and commercial cooperation for mutual benefit in this field. Both India and Argentina also resolved to make use of the synergies between the two countries and the vast experience of their nuclear scientists and technologists.

According to the Chuburu, Hopefully the first meeting of the Joint Committee set up under Article 5 of the Agreement is expected to meet soon.

As has been reported earlier, within the framework of a bilateral agreement INVAP provides a radioisotope production plant called RPF-India (Radioisotope Production Facility) whose objective is the production of Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) for medical applications. The plant uses low enrichment uranium (LEU) through a process developed by the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) of Argentina.

The project, under the turnkey modality, includes the design, manufacture, provision, installation and commissioning of the Mo-99 production plant of 300 Ci / week of capacity (pre-calibrated to 6 days) to be built in the Bhabha Atomic Center (BARC), in Mumbai, for the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT), agency of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) of India.

Oil and Gas

The two countries are in talks for developing shale gas. To this day, unconventional resources cannot be exploited commercially, giving exploitation rights exclusively to government players.

ONGC Videsh Ltd has entered into a memorandum of understanding with YPF S.A, a major oil producing company in Argentina in 2014. In this, both companies will analyse opportunities for cooperation in the upstream sector in Argentina, India and other countries.

ONGC-OVL has started exploration in nearly 50 blocks, while Oil India is working on 3 blocks.

Tourism

According to the envoy, soft diplomacy of people-to-people contact is necessary to understand each other better. Such contacts help us to understand not only the differences but also the things that bring the two countries together. Of course, there are many levels and ways for this. Tourism, for example, has a huge potential. They are strongly working on promoting destinations in Argentina for Indian tourists.

With different type of landscapes and a good climate, Argentina can be a good destination for Bollywood. There will be a MoU inked in the field of joint film production. Once the project is finalized, the Marci government is expected to offer great tax incentives of more than 20 percent.

Interesting factoid: In Argentina, `Hastinapur , the city of wisdom (ciudad de la sabiduria), is spread out on a total area of twelve acres. Its population consists of a dozen Indian gods and an equal number of Argentine human beings. Some of the Indian gods reside in authentic temples, while others stay outdoor enjoying the fragrance of the flowers from the garden. The gods who have their own temples include Ganesh, Krishna, Surya, Narayana and Siva. Since it is Hastinapur, there is a temple for Pandavas too.