Octavio Paz, celebrated Mexican writer and Nobel Laureate, wrote in his book In Light of India about similarities and differences between India and Mexico and the specific characteristics that unite and separate the two countries. Paz, who served as Mexico’s Ambassador to India in the 1960s, says, “Indians are very conscious of their differences from other people. It is an attitude shared by Mexicans”. He further says, “I can understand what it means to be Indian because I am Mexican.” He was one of the few western intellectuals who understood India, its culture and its ethos and became, in a way, India’s ambassador to the West.
This year India and Mexico are celebrating 70th year of the establishment of their ties. At a time when the gaze of the Indian investors and policy makers is falling on Latin America, there is a lot of sense in doing business with Mexico, the second largest market of the region. It is against this backdrop that the 8th India-Mexico Joint Commission Meeting held on 29 October 2020 through video conference needs to be understood. The Meeting was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, and his Mexican counterpart Mr Marcelo Ebrard. The volume of bilateral trade reached $10 billion last fiscal and as Mexico’s ambassador to India Mr Federico Salas says, “Mexico is the first trading partner of India in the Latin American region. India has also emerged as one of the top 10 trading partners of Mexico.” Both the countries have expressed their happiness about the growing bilateral trade and commercial relations. Happily, the two countries are working together to elevate their ties from a “Privileged Partnership” to “Strategic Partnership”.
A positive aspect of Indo-Mexican ties has been the regular meetings of bilateral interactive mechanisms, which include a Joint Commission and a High-Level Group on Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation. They have signed several bilateral agreements, including for investment promotion and protection, double taxation avoidance, air services, and for cooperation in many other sectors. Last month, the fifth meeting of India-Mexico Bilateral High-Level Group on Trade, Investment and Cooperation (BHLG) was also held, co-chaired by Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan and Mexico’s Vice Minister for Foreign Trade Luz María de la Mora. India and Mexico are leading proponents of multilateralism and have worked together in the UN and other multilateral forums to advance their common concerns. The Joint Commission meeting has agreed to work together in the Security Council towards strengthening multilateralism and making the UN more representative and effective. Indo-Mexican ties now cover a wide range of issues from agriculture, health, science and technology to energy, culture education etc. Indian companies have begun to make significant investments in software, pharmaceuticals among others. Leading software companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, NIIT, HCL, BirlaSoft, Aptech and major pharmaceuticals like Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Sun Pharma, Torrent Pharmaceuticals have set up joint ventures in Mexico.
Indian companies have also invested in manufacturing auto parts, tyres, packaging, and electricals. TORNEL, an Indian company, makes tyres for cars and trucks in Mexico. Bajaj Auto has a tie-up in Mexico for assembling and marketing two-wheelers and three-wheelers. The Samvardhana Motherson Group (SMP) of India has investments in Puebla and San Luis Potosí for manufacturing auto components for Audi and Volkswagen.
Mexican companies like Homex, Prolec-GE, Cinepolis, Cemex, Nemak, Softec, Metalsa and many others have invested in India.
Today, India and Mexico have begun to blip on each other’s radar. If Mexico wants more of the world in Mexico and more of Mexico in the world, India wants its growing global footprint to find place in Mexico’s and Latin America’s policy discussions. It is the deep cultural, philosophical and intellectual connections between India and Latin America which have laid the foundation of a fruitful and mutually beneficial ties between India and Latin America. “A true friend is the one”, says Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “who holds your hand and touches your heart.”
Script: Ash Narain Roy, Director, Institute Of Social Sciences, New Delhi