Panama City, Apr 24 (EFE).- India wants to see Panama turn into a regional logistics hub for Indian companies in the region, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said, as New Delhi seeks to widen its footprints in Latin America.
Jaishankar is on a historic visit to the Central American country and concluded his first day in the Panamanian capital with a visit to the Panama Canal on Monday.
The Indian leader, accompanied by Panamanian Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney, watched the passage of large ships through the Miraflores Locks of the Canal, where he was told about the mechanism of one of the most incredible engineering feats of the 20th century.
A short while earlier, at the inauguration of a business forum between India and Latin America and the Caribbean attended by representatives of major Indian companies and regional organizations, Jaishankar presented the “issue” that was repeated throughout the day: Panama as a “hub” for India.
“From the Indian side, there is surely interest,” the Indian minister said at the forum.
“For us there will always be a demand for an efficient center from where our business operations can be conducted, so in a way I would say it’s an interesting conversation, suddenly in a way It’s also a challenge…but it is a challenge where we are willing to work with you,” he added.
Jaishankar said that currently India has logistics hubs in Singapore to the east, Dubai, London and New York to the west.
“But we are today moving into a different world, which is the world in a way of much more decentralized globalization where different regions will have their own autonomous logic, but their own development, their own priorities, their own particular hub,” he said.
And in this new global context, “the question naturally arises…how effective that hub would be, I think it depends obviously very much on the country on concerned, in this case Panama, because at the end of the day all of us know that the interaction of the hub is really the enabling environment…that it is connectivity, its mobility (…) financial system, the quality of parameters,” he added.
After Jaishankar’s remarks, Panamanian Minister of Commerce and Industries, Federico Alfaro Boyd, told reporters that “the potential for Panama to be a center of (Indian) innovation and technology” was discussed.
India is “interested in Panama becoming a hub for these Indian companies in the Americas,” he said.
New Delhi is “seeking other countries to not only create or increase its manufacturing capacity, but also reliable countries from a logistics point of view that can allow India to move those products and also give them added value,” he added.
“I think that’s fundamental, where Panama will be able to bring to the table the experience we’ve had and open the door (to India) not only to the 4 million Panamanians (…) but also to the more than 200 million Central and South Americans,” Alfaro said.
“I think we are at an important crossroads where, on the one hand, India is looking for bigger and better trading partners and, on the other hand, Panama has to contribute,” he added.
At a joint press conference with Panamanian Foreign Minister Janaina Tewaney earlier, the Indian foreign minister denied that India was trying to upstage China in Latin America.
“There is a larger Indian presence, more activity but that is because the Indian economy is growing. We are maybe the largest, most populous country in the world but…we are the fifth largest economy in the world, we are the fastest growing large economy in the world,” Jaishankar said.
“As India becomes a bigger and bigger economy, as its talents and skills become relevant to a global workplace, as Indian manufacturing becomes more competitive, you will see a bigger Indian presence. It is very natural. I think, what you’re seeing in my visit is one step in that direction but I can see many more steps happening,” he added.
The Indian minister pointed out the Indian companies were doing big projects in Latin America, with which India had a long history of diplomatic and trade ties.
Both ministers also said that India was exploring the possibility of creating a logistics hub in Panama, focused mainly on the production and distribution of medicines.
“There are possibilities for sharing technology, issues related to the production of medicines, pharmaceuticals, in the establishment of Indian companies in Panama,” the Panamanian foreign minister said.
The Indian minister also explained that during a meeting with Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo earlier in the day, some “specific issues” that were discussed were those pertaining to “trade and investment.”
“(We also discussed) the possibilities of exploring a logistics hub here for different companies. We discussed the challenges of affordable health, of more decent, of decentralized production of medicines in the world, including in this region,” he said.
Jaishankar arrived in Panama on Monday for a historic two-day visit.
He is the first Indian foreign minister to visit the Central American country after more than six decades of bilateral relations.
This is the second leg of Jaishankar’s tour of Latin America and the Caribbean, which kicked off in Guyana and will continue in Colombia and the Dominican Republic. EFE