India-Brazil ties acquire economic energy


New Delhi : India and Brazil, despite being continents apart, Monday sought to provide much-needed economic momentum to their strategic ties by resolving to quadruple bilateral trade to $10 billion by 2010 and agreeing to cooperate in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

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The two emerging giants of Asia and Latin America also signed seven pacts in areas ranging from space and education to oil exploration and media and underlined the increasing congruence of interests on global issues like the UN reforms, WTO trade negotiations and climate change.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva held talks on a broad spectrum of bilateral, regional and global issues that aimed at providing a "solid economic underpinning" to their strategic ties.

"The leaders of both countries underlined the importance of providing the strategic partnership with a solid economic underpinning," said a joint statement impressively entitled "India-Brazil: Red Fort Declaration 2007" that was issued Monday night after President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam hosted a state banquet for the visiting Brazilian president.

The two leaders also resolved to work with renewed vigour to make the UN "more democratic, legitimate and representative" and reiterated their support for each other country's place in an expanded Security Council.

The new synergy between the two trillion-dollar economies was epitomized by the launch of the CEOs forum comprising top corporate honchos of the two countries.

Indian steel magnate Ratan Tata and Petrobras CEO Jose Sergio Gabrielli, the two chairs of the forum, signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing the CEOs forum in the presence of Manmohan Singh and Lula.

In a sign of new strategic equations between the two countries, Lula appreciated India's growing energy needs driven by its rapidly expanding economy and indicated his country's readiness to back India in the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) of which Brazil is an influential member.

Lula, however, stopped short of offering explicit support to India in the NSG, saying his country would take a formal position on the issue after New Delhi signs a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and concludes a bilateral civil nuclear pact with Washington, official sources told IANS.

The Red Fort Declaration speaks about "early development of a programme of cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with their international obligations".

"Brazil's response was positive on civil nuclear cooperation. All issues were discussed in a cordial and constructive atmosphere," an official source said.

Lula, who began his three-day state visit to India Sunday – his second in three years – vigorously pitched for providing a new economic impetus to ties between the two countries which he said were emerging as "key players in the international scene".

In a stirring speech in the afternoon to business leaders of both countries, Lula defied sceptics who point to huge distances between the two countries and asserted that the two economies can even exceed the 2010 target of $10 billion with a more proactive participation of the private sector.

"It's time to consolidate our strategic partnership. The 21st century will be the century of opportunity for India and Brazil," Lula said to resounding applause from the audience.

The two leaders also underlined "the importance of simultaneously developing greater connectivity between the two countries and investment in each other's economies, especially in the infrastructure sector", the Red Fort Declaration said.

Lula also focused on enhanced partnership with India in promoting bio-fuels, an area in which Brazil is an acknowledged leader, as an international commodity.

Energy emerged as another important area of collaboration with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) and ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Petrobras, Brazil's energy giant.

Four agreements were signed in the field of audio-visual co-production, cooperation in augmentation of Brazilian earth station for receiving and processing data from Indian remote sensing satellites mutual assistance in customs matters and on promoting an academic exchange programme between the two countries.

An MoU between the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) of India and the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) of Brazil was also signed.

In a hectic day packed with focused diplomacy, the 62-year-old Lula, the first Left-wing of Brazil leader to occupy the highest office in his country, also met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the chairperson of the ruling coalition Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and discussed with them an array of bilateral and global issues.

It wasn't just business and diplomacy all the way for Lula. In a special gesture of appreciation for his advocacy of the rights of the poor and the disempowered, President Kalam presented the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding to Lula at an elegant function at the Hotel Taj Mahal, which was also attended by Manmohan Singh and senior ministers of his government.