Panama City, Apr 23 (EFE).- Panama is the gateway to Latin America for India, the Indian ambassador in the country, Upender Singh Rawat said as Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was set to land in the capital on Monday as part of his tour of the region.
“Panama is the gateway to Latin America, due to the Panama canal and the logistics and transport hub, it is also a services hub,” Rawat said in an interview at the embassy earlier this week amid preparations for the Indian top diplomat’s visit.
He added that New Delhi’s interest specifically lay in the Colon free trade zone – one of the largest free trade areas in the world – while the largest Indian community south of the United States – around 15,000 people – could also help establish greater trade ties.
“Many of them are in small business, some in big businesses, including in the Colon Free Zone (..) and as the Indian economy is growing, (…) our external affairs minister is paying more attention to Latin America,” said Rawat, adding that Jaishankar had already visited the continent last year.
Bilateral trade between Indian and Panama between April 2021 and March 2022 – the Indian fiscal year – stood at over $640 million, with Indian exports amounting to $347.75 million while the Asian giant imported goods worth $292.4 million from the central American nation, Rawat explained.
India’s major exports to Panama included minerals, clothes and fabrics, pharmaceutical products, electric equipment and medical and surgical instruments, while it imported mainly iron and steel, teak and other wood, aluminum, mineral fuel, oils, wax and leather from Panama.
“We have very good ties with Panama, in fact the two countries have completed 60 years of bilateral relations, and last year we had two high-level Indian visits to Panama,” said the ambassador, referring to the visit of India’s junior foreign minister Meenakshi Lekhi and senior bureaucrat (secretary0 Saurabh Kumar.
Jaishankar is visiting on the invitation of Panama’s foreign minister Janaina Tewaney Mencomo – whose father is of Indian origin – that she extended during her India visit in January.
Panama’s foreign ministry highlighted in a release on Saturday that this was the first-ever visit to the country by an Indian foreign minister.
Panama is the second stop in Jaishankar’s tour of four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, which began in Guyana and also includes Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as part of New Delhi’s efforts emerge as a leader of the Global South, even as it holds the rotating presidency of G20 this year. EFE