Address by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, DG, MP-IDSA at Webinar on 70th Anniversary of India-Mexico Relations
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  • Address by Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General
    Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) at Webinar hosted by the Embassy of India in Mexico on India-Mexico Relations (70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties)
    August 13, 2020

    India and Mexico: Case for a Strategic Partnership

    Buenos dias a todos! Gracias por invitarme hoy.

    Thank you for inviting me to speak at today’s webinar on “The Past, Present and Future of India-Mexico Relations”. I wish to convey my appreciation to Amb. Manpreet Vohra and Amb. Federico Salas for the great work they are doing to promote our relations. I would be remiss in my duty if I did not acknowledge the presence today of Mr. Xavier Orendain, our Honorary Consul in Guadalajara, whose support for the work of every Ambassador of India over the years has been invaluable. I also acknowledge the presence today of my fellow panellists Amb. Rajiv Bhatia, Prof. S.P. Ganguly and Prof. Aribel Contreras Suárez.

    Let me reveal an interesting thing. When I was appointed our Ambassador to Mexico in 2012, I had a briefing session with Amb. Bhatia and he told me something that I will never forget, “You are going to one of our best posts abroad. Mexico is the best kept secret in our Ministry”.

    It truly turned out that way. I spent thirty-seven and a half years in the Indian Foreign Service with several foreign assignments in some of the most beautiful places around the world, but nothing came close to the three years and three months of pure magic, both personally and professionally, that I experienced in Mexico. That was the best posting of my life, and I continue to miss Mexico, especially its pulsating culture, the pure delights of its colourful festivals, its soul-stirring songs, kaleidoscopic dances and music, and, above all, its rich cuisine and the warm friendship of its people.    

    The Past Points to the Future

    One has always wondered about the fact that India and Mexico have so many similarities. We look alike. I was often called General Pancho Villa while I was there, because of my impressive moustache in those days! Besides, there are said to be some ancient links between the Mayans and southern India, which makes our temple architecture similar.

    The Howler Monkey God Hun-Ahan of the Mayas resembles the revered Monkey God Hanuman in Hinduism. The Feathered Serpent God Quetzalcóatl resembles the Indian Serpent God Nagaraja.

    We are reminded of the galleon trade between the Philippines and Nueva España, when trade and commerce flourished between Mexico and all the major countries of Asia, including India, China, Japan and Korea. This was the age in which Santa Catarina, the Catholic figure of Puebla, is reported to have come from Mughal India, bringing with her the so-called La China Poblana. Some say the Mexican mole sauce is linked to the Indian curry. The Paliacate definitely has its origins in the rich calico scarves of “Pulicut” as it was called then, originating in the port city of Calicut in India. Their designs and motifs, even today, are similar to our designs.

    But that was another age. India was lucky in that none of the colonisers, not even the British, were able to destroy Indian culture. On the other side of the world, Mexico, frankly, struggled to preserve its own heritage, culture, language and architecture and was perhaps less lucky.

    Coming to the present, we face similar challenges of growth and development for our large populations. The global situation today is in great flux. The challenge of the COVID pandemic has only accelerated many existing geo-strategic trends that the world was already facing, such as the unprecedented fracturing of political and economic power, the United States-China rift, the weaponisation of trade and technology, trade protectionism, nationalistic hubris and the ideological cleavage. Non-state actors, criminal groups and terrorists have also sought to exploit vulnerabilities. The greatest challenge before us is to revive economic growth and to resuscitate globalisation.

    In an age in which no single country is in a position to dominate in our inter-dependent world, we need to work together and strengthen multi-polarity and multilateralism. Both India and Mexico are members of the G20. Both countries will be non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2021. We could use this opportunity to build a better global consensus on climate change, sustainable development, renewable energy, terrorism and non-traditional threats. 

    It is well-known that global economic growth engines have shifted in recent years to the Asia-Pacific region. China’s growth story is well-documented, but there are other remarkable stories too across the vast Asian landmass that straddles the Pacific and Indian Oceans and is home to more than 60 per cent of the global population.

    Economic growth and prosperity, once limited to Japan and China in East Asia and to the Asian Tigers such as South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, have now spread to Southeast Asia and South Asia. In fact, before the pandemic struck us all, this growth story was spreading in India, and across Africa as well.

    I am confident that in the long run, once we overcome the pandemic, these trends will pick up again. They are irreversible. They are based on a youthful demographic profile, education, the universalisation of certain manufacturing technologies and supply chains, and, the opportunities of the information age.

    Asia, Africa and Latin America will remain regions of high-growth potential. In Latin America, Mexico is the second-largest economy, its largest trading nation, and given its geographical location on the North American continent, perhaps also its best docking point.

    The Indo-Pacific

    The term Indo-Pacific is gaining currency. It is a representative term that is inclusive and reflective of the contemporary age, just as the term Asia-Pacific represented the geo-economic impulses of the second half of the last century.

    To me, this historical backdrop, current realities and future trends all point in the direction of a renewal of links between Mexico and the Indo-Pacific region, mirroring the glorious connect of past centuries.

    India-Mexico Relations

    This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Mexico. Mexico was the first country in Latin America to establish diplomatic relations on August 1, 1950 with India.

    India-Mexico relations have always been characterised by mutual understanding and growing all-round cooperation. Ties were elevated to a ‘Privileged Partnership’ during the Mexican President’s state visit to India in 2007. High-level meetings have given impetus to our bilateral ties and deepened cooperation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mexico in June 2016 was a major milestone. There exist between us several bilateral agreements for investment, taxation, extradition, customs and air services.

    As emerging markets, we are both engaged in bringing the fruits of development to the large masses in our countries.

    During 2014, a year before I left Mexico, we had considerable activity on the bilateral front. In October 2014, I worked to ensure the visit of the then Foreign Minister of Mexico, Mr. Jose Antonio Meade Kuribreña, at the head of a large delegation, for the 6th Bilateral Joint Commission Meeting. It resulted in a convergence on many issues, including Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for co-operation in Science & Technology and Space. It is my strong belief that our Joint Commission must regularly meet at the level of the two Foreign Ministers.

    An outstanding feature of our current engagement is the spurt in bilateral trade and investment in recent years.

    Logic of Closer Ties with India

    India is the world’s seventh-largest country with the world’s second-largest population. It is also among the world’s top seven economies. Half our population of nearly 1.3 billion people is below the age of 25 years, making it the largest reservoir of youth anywhere in the world at a time when the rest of the world is rapidly ageing. The world continues to place a long-term bet on India, a democracy, becoming one of the top three economies in the next three decades.

    I feel our relations and interactions have been impeded by a lack of mutual awareness. Mexicans do not know enough about contemporary India or its achievements. Mexicans often have a romanticised notion about India.

    I strongly feel that there is a need for the Mexican media to highlight contemporary India’s many achievements. Since achieving Independence in 1947, India has made notable advancements in science and technology, space and atomic energy, agriculture, education, poverty alleviation, defence and Information Technology (IT). The liberalised policies of the last six years have provided a new foundation for further progress, beyond the pandemic.

    Boosting India-Mexico Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

    As we look ahead, India must focus on deepening trade ties with Mexico in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Pacific Alliance. We must strengthen cooperation in the three sectors in which India is doing well in Mexico, i.e., pharmaceuticals, automotive and information technology. Mexico’s experience can be invaluable to India in the creation of Smart Cities and in promoting tourism, both domestic and in-bound.

    With the world having gone to new ways of learning, teaching and interacting in the aftermath of the pandemic, there is great scope to expand online university education cooperation between India and Mexico. In this context, the Mexico-India University Presidents’ Forum announced during the visit of Vice Foreign Minister Julian Ventura in September 2019 should convene at the earliest, to chalk out concrete ideas.

    Both India and Mexico have an interest in Africa. We should explore the possibility of joint projects in select African countries, bilaterally or in tandem with third countries like Japan, with whom both India and Mexico have very good relations. Japan is the biggest investor from Asia in Mexico. It is also the biggest single-country investor in India. India and Japan have a Special Strategic and Global Partnership that provides for cooperation in capacity building projects in Africa. Trilateral Cooperation in Africa could provide Mexico an opportunity to promote its role and potential in the Indo-Pacific region. Mexico is already well-connected with East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region through bilateral trade and investment ties and its membership of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and its dialogue with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Mexico’s presence in the Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA) grouping helps it to strengthen ties with South Korea, Indonesia and Australia, all important countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

    Areas of interest in the Indo-Pacific for Mexico are infrastructure, food processing, digital innovation and healthcare. The Blue Dot network for establishing standards for infrastructure and connectivity projects should be of interest to Mexico. Leading Mexican companies have invested in India in recent times and they should be encouraged to take the lead in exploring joint projects and investments with Indian partners in third countries across Asia and Africa.

    I should point out that our dialogue at the level of think-tanks is not satisfactory. I am aware that the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) has an MOU with Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI) but exchanges have been few, if any.

    We could also establish a regular dialogue on interdiction of drugs smuggling and border surveillance techniques against illegal crossings. Both India and Mexico have unique experience in this regard.

    A new area of interest is the Defence Sector in India, which is open to hundred per cent foreign direct investment. Mexico has well-known strengths in aerospace and defence manufacturing which is of interest to India. I recall helping to expand the defence wing in the Mexican Embassy in New Delhi in 2015. In May this year, the Government of India has raised the limit through the automatic route to 74 per cent and even higher through the Government approval route. Recently, the Government of India has announced a self-reliance programme known as Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan to encourage Make In India in defence manufacturing. 108 items have been identified which will no longer be imported, but progressively made in India. This opens up vast opportunities for fresh investments by Mexican companies for joint ventures and partnerships in defence manufacturing in India. A bilateral dialogue between industry representatives, including Confederation of Indian Industry/ Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (CII/FICCI) and counterparts in Mexico, should be held soon to identify opportunities at the earliest.  

    As maritime nations, we should also look at cooperation in the Blue Economy, including in third countries, especially small island nations.

    Naval cooperation could be boosted too. Unfortunately, it has been fairly dormant so far. Both countries resumed bilateral naval visits in 2017 after almost a decade, to celebrate 100 years of the Mexican Constitution. Exchanges between defence training institutions such as the National Defence College (NDC) in New Delhi and the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) in Tamil Nadu and counterparts in Mexico could be explored. My think-tank is also willing to explore a dialogue with counterparts in Mexico. 

    These are a few suggestions to raise our Privileged Partnership to a strategic level in the future. 

    Les deseo a todos Buena salud. Un abrazo desde New Delhi! Gracias!

    Thank you!