Intro: It is significant to realise that Brazil has accepted the presence of ISKCON, Satya Sai Baba, Maharashi Mahesh Yogi and Bhakti Vedanta Foundation though Brazil is a predominantly Roman Catholic country (74 per cent).
If one were to ask an average middle class Indian what he knows about Brazil, one can reasonably expect a blank face. India’s relations with Brazil began comparatively recently but now they are on the increase, though diplomatic relations with it were established way back in 1948. It took some time for both countries to know each other’s worth. Relations first began on a poor note when Rio de Janerio supported Portugal on the Goa issue. But that has been long forgotten. The first to appreciate Indo-Brazil cooperation was President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002) who envisioned stronger economic ties with developing countries, especially India. But it was under the inspiring leadership of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010) that everything changed at home and abroad. Lula transformed India-Brazil relations irreversibly. He was conferred the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for 2006 and the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2010.
India it may be remembered is the third and Brazil the seventh largest economy in the world. The growing commercial relations between the two countries have gone hand-in-hand with increasing frequency of mutual visits from both sides.
During Rousseff’s visit in 2012 as many as seven Memoranda of Understanding were signed dealing with cultural exchange, science, technology and innovative biotechnology, technical cooperation and promotion of gender equality.
Together the two nations contribute about 8.5 per cent of the world’s GDP. Brazil’s trade relations with India have witnessed a ten fold increase in the last decade and is expected to reach USD 15 billion by 2015 with exports of USD 5.04 billion and imports of USD 5.58 billion, to start with.
According to one expert the two countries can do wonders in promoting food security. Brazil has vast cultivable land and plenty of water. Brazil’s expertise in agricultural produce can go a long way in increasing farm productivity. Actually, it is argued, Indian farmers can go to Brazil in large numbers and expand Brazil’s land under cultivation on a large scale (as is being done in Africa).
India, is already providing “adaptable, appropriate and affordable” techniques in the agricultural sector in many countries in Africa. According to one expert “an African collaboration between India and Brazil would indeed be a marvellous example of South-South cooperation for the benefit of people in three continents. Latin America (and the Caribbeans), Africa and Asia.
As B Ramesh Babu (Freedom First, January 2014) has noted, India and Brazil are working together on cyber security. Brazil has emerged as India’s largest trading partner in LAC (Latin America and Caribbean) region and means a great deal to India which wants to expand its trade and economic relations with Brazil’s neighbours like Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, to start with. In recent years more and more investments have been directed from India to Brazil, especially in the fileds of Information Technology, Biochemistry and Pharmaceuticals.
Indeed, almost all the major Pharma players in India have established their presence in Brazil with supply of bulk drugs, finished formulations and establishment of manufacturing units. In return Brazilian companies have invested in Indian automobiles, bio-fuels, footwear, IT, mining and energy. For both the countries, where cooperation is concerned, the sky is the limit.
The official language of Brazil is Portuguese.The educational institutes in India would do well to introduce Portuguese as a subject of study.
It is not so well known that a statue of Mahatma Gandhi is located near the Parque Ibirapuera at Sao Paulo and another statue is at Rio de Janeiro. Private Brazilian organisations occasionally invite Indian cultural troupes. Caminho das Indias, a popular telenovela in Brazil aired in 2009 popularised Indian culture in Brazil and books about India have started to pop up on the best selling list. India must cash in on these developments.
(The writer is a senior columnist and former editor
of Illustrated Weekly)