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South-South Cooperation: Kovind accompanied by a large business delegation to visit Bolivia and Chile next month

Huma Siddiqui
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With an eye on achieving an all-electric car fleet by 2030, India is reaching out to the Lithium Triangle in South America — comprising Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. This will be the focus of talks when President Ram Nath Kovind s visit to Bolivia and Chile next month.

Accompanied by a high-level business and official delegation, the President will be visiting Bolivia on his return from Croatia on March 29.

New Delhi, later this month, is hosting the President of Argentina Mauricio Macri, who will be arriving here on a three-day visit on Feb 17, and discussion on Lithium mining will be on the agenda of talks.

These countries are also members of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which fosters South-South Cooperation. India s push for electric cars will help to cut its oil import bills.

Sources confirmed to Financial Express Online that during his talks with Bolivian President Evo Morales and later with the President of Chile Sebasti n Pi era, the focus will be on enhancing cooperation in various fields including infrastructure, trade, investments, space, agriculture and military cooperation.

Bolivia has sought Indian participation in several infrastructure projects as well as help in water management technologies to deal with drought in that country. In an exclusive interaction with the Financial Express Online, senior officers in Bolivia had said that Bolivia s relations with India are developing fast, and both sides are keen on expanding relations.

There are a lot of opportunities for Indian companies in various sectors including software industry; pharmaceuticals, medicine, healthcare as well as in solar energy and the automobile industry. The government of Bolivia is also keen on Indian companies participation in PPP projects in port construction, in the railways for the coast-to-coast bi-oceanic train corridor project, agriculture industry and economic cooperation.

The landlocked country has vast reserves of natural gas, and is largely dependent on natural gas and mineral exports, is seeking Indian capital to invest in developing Bolivia s massive lithium deposits, which account for 60% of the world s reserves. That country also has large deposits of silver, tin, copper and gold, which they want to sell to India.

They are keen on India s help in seeking expertise in areas including developing dams, rainwater harvesting and wastewater management.

As has been reported by The Financial Express Online earlier, the Indian Space Research Organisation and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are working on the development of low-cost lithium-ion batteries that can be used in EVs and other equipment.

The former ambassador of Bolivia to India Sergio Arispe Barrientos had told Financial Express Online that, With the largest lithium reserves in the world, Bolivia can partner with India in its electric vehicle park projects. In fact, Tata Motors is expected to travel to Bolivia to explore possibilities for sourcing lithium for its electric cars.

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Recently, Argentina too has approached the Indian government and companies to invest in lithium mines in the South American nation.

India is in the process of setting up large lithium-ion battery plants, the Lithium Triangle countries have offered to meet India s growing demand.

Besides offering to set up a centre of excellence in technology in the central city of Cochabamba, India has offered to train Bolivian teachers in English and offered scholarships to students, technicians and scientists. India has also offered financing to build a pharmaceutical complex.

On the visit to Chile, diplomatic sources told Financial Express Online that, The visit by President Kovind will help the two countries to further strengthen our relationship and to take it forward. And to explore the investment opportunities post expanded India-Chile preferential trade between the two countries, and identifying new areas for future investments.

As has been reported earlier, Chile and India are in discussions to finalise phytosanitary requirements for the export of avocados, walnuts and blueberries from Chile and the import of mango, coco peat and pomegranate from India. India is targeting the pharmaceuticals market in Chile; pharmaceuticals are among the top 10 Indian exports to the country.

The two South American nations are also keen on developing cooperation with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The first Indo- Chilean Astronomical Dialogue had taken place in India last year. There is a tremendous opportunity for Indian defence companies to participate in the modernisation of Chilean armed forces. Chiefs of the armed forces from both sides have had meetings on exploiting the potential in shipbuilding, radar systems, submarines and joint training.

The University of Chile had launched its first homemade palm-sized satellite on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C38 rocket in 2017. There are 24 Indian companies/representative offices based in Chile. From 1974 to 2012, India has invested a total of $27.1 million in Chile, basically in mining and IT. Many Indian companies recently entered the Chilean market through the acquisition of Chilean companies or through joint ventures/collaborations.

According to sources, there have been several queries from the government of Chile for the India-Russian Joint Venture BrahMos Missile. The BrahMos Company is already registered with the government of Chile which will help in future sales in case negotiations culminate on a positive note.

Chile has requirement of shore-based weapon complexes which the BrahMos tested in end-2017 with a precision hit the target on two consecutive days one without a warhead and the other with a warhead.