Bolivia may appear to be a distant name in Latin America, but the growing trade with India has brought the nation into limelight. Growing people to people contacts have increased the number of visitor visas between the two nations. Ambassador Sergio Dario Arispe Barrientos spoke to The Blue Moon Editor Amit Mittal on the prospects of trade with India. Some excerpts :
- As per the Statistics from the Institute of Statistics of Bolivia (INEI) trade between India and Bolivia has been declining ever since 2015. Is the reason behind this declining trend that the Modi government has not paid enough attention to the Latin American region?
2015 2016 2017
Total Trade 315.2 228.7 200.4
(in million US Dollars)
India has become the fourth largest trade partner of Bolivia. India also has the distinction of being the second largest importer of minerals pegged at USD 350 million, an increase of 358 %. Prime Minister Modi has the vision to increase ties with Latin American Region(LAC), if we can have access to Indian market, this will provoke intense ties with India.
Bolivia has the largest reserve of lithium in the world and this can be a great partnership.
Bolivia has the largest lithium reserve in the world which can be a great partnership with India. Moreover, India is the largest market for gold which has a demand for 850 tons of the metal. 99% of the imports from Bolivia to India is gold.
- VIP visits from both the sides have been on a low key, what could be the reason?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the vision to increase ties with LAC; if LAC can have access to the Indian market this will provoke intense ties with India. India is a link between the developed and developing nations. India can provide voice to the voiceless. India should have a role to play in diplomacy.
- In 1997, India and Bolivia signed a cultural agreement. India has proposed the signing of Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (BIPPA). Bolivia has proposed the signing of a framework Agreement for Bilateral Cooperation and an Agreement on visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders. What has been the outcome?
The proposed visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia to India will broaden the issue. There is also the proposal of opening of an Indian Embassy in Bolivia.
- Bolivian Cultural group “Dil Diwana” is active in promoting Indian culture and cinema. Has it been able to get renewal of the cultural exchange program?
Indian culture is spreading round the world. I recently saw the Hindi film ‘Bahubali’ in Bolivia. The first visit of the Bolivian Foreign Minister to India shows in the coming months shows the political interest .
- Has there been rise in number of visitors from India to Bolivia and vice versa?
Yes, there is an increase in the numbers. The number of visas in 2015 was six (tourists) and 120 work visas , in 2016 the number rose to 190 tourists and 137 work visas and in 2017 the numbers went up to 240 tourists and 66 work visas.