Indian foreign minister arrives in Panama on historic visit
Panama City, Apr 24 (EFE).- Indian Foreign Relations Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrived in Panama City on Monday on an historic two-day visit, the first top diplomat from the South Asian giant to visit the Central American country despite more than six decades of bilateral relations.
On this second leg of his tour of the Americas which began in Guyana – and which will also take Jaishankar to Colombia and the Dominican Republic – the foreign minister will begin his program in the Panamanian capital by placing a floral offering at the statue of the father of Indian independence and champion of non-violent struggle, “Mahatma” Gandhi.
Panama’s Foreign Ministrry, which confirmed to EFE Jaishankar’s arrival early Monday morning, emphasized the importance of his visit, saying that “for the first time in history, an Indian foreign minister” is visiting Panama, a trip that comes after the Central American country’s top diplomat, Janania Tewaney Mencomo, issued an invitation to him during her visit to India in January.
The foreign minister’s American tour is part of New Delhi’s efforts emerge as a leader of the Global South, even as it holds the rotating presidency of the G20 this year.
Specifically, Jaishankar will continue his agenda by meeting with Tewany, whose father is of Indian origin, and the pair will offer a joint press conference regarding his visit, and later he will participate in a Latin American, Caribbean and Indian business forum to be attended by representatives of significant regional companies and entities.
Among the participants at the forum will be officials from the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and leaders of Indian companies with interests in Panama such as agrochemical giant UPL Limited, biofuels and ethanol firm Praj Industries, pharmaceutical companies Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Hetero Labs, among others.
“Panama is the gateway to Latin America, due to the Panama Canal and the logistics and transport hub, it is also a services hub,” Indian Ambassador to Panama Upender Singh Rawat said in an interview at the embassy in recent days amid preparations for the Indian top diplomat’s visit.
In addition, however, Rawat emphasized the importance of Panama’s Colon free trade zone – one of the largest free trade areas in the world – while Panama’s large Indian community, in fact the largest such community south of the United States of around 15,000 people, could also help establish greater trade ties.
Jaishankar will also meet with some of those Indians in Panama on Tuesday during his visit to a Hindu temple in Panama City and later he will participate in the political dialogue and cooperation mechanism between India and the countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Bilateral trade between Indian and Panama between April 2021 and March 2022 – the Indian fiscal year – stood at more than $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.
India’s major exports to Panama included minerals, clothing 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.