India has paid "scant" attention to the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region and there is need to scale up high-level political interactions with the countries of the region with which India's trade has been growing rapidly, diplomats and experts concurred here.
Speaking at the launch of the book "Latin America, the Caribbean and India: Promise and Challenge", authored by former Indian envoy Deepak Bhojwani, diplomats and experts said Thursday evening that the LAC region and India share many commonalities and there was need to push up people-to-people connectivity.
"There has been scant attention paid to the LAC. We know so little about the region," said Bhojwani, speaking at the book launch at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at Sapru House. He said India and the LAC region have a lot in common and share complementarities in economic and commercial ties.
India sources over 20 percent of its energy needs from the region, which has a population of 600 million. Bilateral trade has been growing with Latin America, from $2 billion in 2000-01 to $47 billion in 2013-14. But India needs to scale up its political interaction with the region, he said, adding that the political leadership has "started taking notice" of the LAC
"There is lack of sufficient weightage given to the LAC, more so for outgoing visits.. This is something we should rectify," said Bhojwani, who has spent 12 years as envoy in the region.
He said India had bought five Embraer jets from Brazil, and of them three have been mounted with Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS) System.
Vinod Kumar, additional secretary (International Organisations), at the Ministry of External Affairs, said India and the LAC enjoyed warm and friendly ties and that bilateral trade and commercial ties have been on the rise.
He said ties with the region have witnessed an upswing, especially in the "last 10 months" when the new government came to power.
Kumar said the region was the second largest supplier of crude oil to India, and Indian companies were active in the region. He said the region had "lot of potential and promise and it is a challenge for us to fulfil the promise", referring to the title of Bhojwani's book.
He said India can also work with the LAC on climate change issues, especially with the climate change conference coming up in Paris later this year.
Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh, who was supposed to launch the book but could not make it as he was in Djibouti to oversee the Yemen evacuation, said via video speech that the book provides an "insightful view" into the region.
Singh said that LAC was an area of abundant resources and both sides should build closer ties for mutual benefit.
ICWA director general Rajiv Bhatia mooted the idea of India launching a forum summit with the LAC, which comprises 33 countries, on the lines of the India-Africa Forum summit held every three years. This, he said, will help focus the spotlight on the region.