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Highs & lows of President Patil's Latin America trip

April 24, 2008 13:12 IST

With an eye on increasing south-south cooperation, President Pratibha Patil ended her maiden visit to Latin American countries during which nine agreements were signed with Chile, Brazil and Mexico and a special emphasis was laid on increasing the connectivity.

The visit of 73-year-old Patil, who made a stop over in the South African town of Cape Town on her way back, was also used to muster support for India's candidature for the permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council.

Beginning her maiden visit on April 12, the President had to face a bit embarrassing moments in Brazil where very few Senate members were present to hear her address and in Mexico she gave protocol jitters when she forgot to bow before the tri-colour, but quickly made amends.

Her engagements in Chile were full of enthusiasm from the host country where she struck a rapport with her counterpart Michelle Bachelet Jeria within no time. The highlight of the President's visit to Brazil was the signing of four agreements including the extradition treaty and a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Oil and Natural Gas.

Under the extradition agreement, the two countries were to provide extradition of any person against whom an arrest order is issued by a competent court for a crime, which is punishable in both the countries with an imprisonment for at least one year or a more severe punishment.

Besides these, the two countries also signed the MoU for agriculture and allied sectors and in civil defence and humanitarian assistance.

The pact on agriculture was envisaged to open opportunities of cooperation between the two countries in production technologies and equipment, financing and micro credit for small farmers, post harvest management, Agro and food processing and animal husbandry.

In Mexico, where the protest by Left Parliamentarians led to cancellation of the President's speech to a joint session of Parliament, India signed two agreements -- air services and an MoU on cooperation on Energy field -- with that country.

The unpleasant cancellation of the President's speech to Mexican Congress, however, saw the host country expressing 'regret' for the stand-off at the Parliament. Patil, who was accompanied by a business delegation, also asked business communities in all the countries to work together so that the trade targets of India with all the three Latin American countries was met well in time.

Her visit to Chile, however, was the highest point of Patil's tour as the body language with her Chilean counterpart, Bachelet, who happens to be also the first woman President of this Latin American country, was 'too warm'.

The Indian President, after meeting Bachelet, said: "Your lovely and lively personality is impressive. I keenly look forward to receiving you in India next year on mutually convenient dates."

Chile also offered to be a platform for India's entry into the South American market during the visit.

"Chile can be a platform for India in Latin America as we have the necessary infrastructure -- roads, ports, buildings, telecommunication -- for operating business into the entire Latin America," Bachelet said.

However, her offer for converting the Preferential Trade Agreement into a Free Trade Agreement was not received enthusiastically by New Delhi, who said they would be weighing all the possibilities.

Chile also expressed complete support to India's candidature for the UNSC.

Sumir Kaul in Cape Town
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