The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, landed at the Viru Viru International Airport, Santa Cruz, Bolivia in the evening of March 28, 2019, where he was received by Mr Evo Morales Ayma, the President of Plurinational State of Bolivia and other dignitaries. He was accorded ceremonial welcome on the occasion. This is the first ever high-level visit between India-Bolivia since the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Yesterday (March 29, 2019), the President commenced his engagements with meeting his counterpart, Mr Evo Morales Ayma. During the one-to-one discussions with President Morales, the President said that he was honoured to pay the first ever State Visit from India to Bolivia. He thanked President Morales for special welcome and affection.
Subsequently, the President led delegation-level talks between the two sides. Speaking on the occasion, he said that it is encouraging to see that India-Bolivia bilateral trade has picked up in the last two years and it stood at US$ 875 million in 2018. 60% of Bolivian gold is exported to India. Bolivia is the 8th leading trading partner of India in Latin America region. He emphasised that there is a need to diversify our trade basket to further strengthen the bilateral trade.
The President said that we are keen to enhance our exports in the pharma sector. India is recognized globally for its high quality medicines at affordable prices. Indian pharma companies can help Bolivia in its noble vision of health for all.
Both sides also agreed to work together for exploration and extraction of the vast Lithium deposits of Bolivia. Lithium is a key resource used in making of batteries that India needs for its clean technology initiatives such as increased use of electric cars.
The President said that India takes pride in its development cooperation partnership with Bolivia under the framework of South-South Cooperation. He announced a US$ 100 million Line of Credit to Bolivia for financing development projects in sectors that Bolivia may choose. He also offered doubling of training slots to 10 under Indian Technical Economic Cooperation programme to Bolivia.
To mark the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India offered two busts of Gandhiji to Bolivia. The Bolivian side accepted the offer and is likely to place the busts in its capital La Paz and its largest city Santa Cruz.
Following the delegation-level talks, the two Presidents witnessed the signing and exchange of eight MOUs that concern fields of culture, visa waiver for diplomats, exchange between diplomatic academies, mining, space, traditional medicine, establishment of Centre of Excellence in IT and the Bi-Oceanic Railway project. India offered to explore the possibility of Indian Railways working with Bolivia on this project that is crucial for Bolivia. Further, Bolivia also joined the International Solar Alliance by signing the framework agreement on International Solar Alliance.
Subsequently, President Morales conferred the highest State Honour of Bolivia – Condor de los Andes en el Grado de Gran Collar – on President Kovind. The President dedicated the award to the friendship between India and Bolivia. A Press Statement was also issued (attached).
In his next engagement, the President attended a luncheon banquet hosted by President Morales. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity defines our people, and unity in diversity is our shared achievement. There is much that India and Bolivia can contribute to each other’s march towards progress and development.
Later in the evening (March 29, 2019), the President visited the Universidad Autonama Gabriel Rene Moreno where he unveiled a plaque naming the University’s auditorium after Mahatma Gandhi. Addressing the students, he said that Gandhiji remains extremely relevant to 21st century global concerns. In his advocacy of sustainability, ecological sensitivity and living in harmony with nature, he anticipated some of the pressing challenges of our times. The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations are Gandhian philosophy in action.
In the final engagement of the day (March 29, 2019), the President addressed the India-Bolivia Business Forum. Addressing the gathering, the President said that both our countries have their economic strengths, and the two can complement each other for growth and prosperity. India manufactures everything from satellites, light aircraft, cars to major high technology industrial products and has the third largest scientific human resource pool in the world. All these aspects, coupled with our large middle-class market of over 400 million, a vibrant business ecosystem fostered under stable democratic governance systems, position India as a unique destination for international trade and business.
The President said that India has a focused business approach to the Latin American region. We hold the India-Latin America and Caribbean Conclaves annually to deepen our business collaborations. These Conclaves have served us well. Several Indian global majors have made entry into Bolivia through them, bringing cutting-edge technology, products and services to the people. He noted that there are immense opportunities for collaboration between India and Bolivia in various fields such as automobiles, healthcare, IT, renewable energy, Lithium, agriculture, space, developing modern infrastructure- from railways, highways, waterways, airways to energy pathways.
Today (March 30, 2019), the President will leave for Chile – the last leg of his visit to three nations – Croatia, Bolivia and Chile. Prior to his departure, he will address an Indian Community Reception in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.