India and Portugal have been for a long time been bound by ancient historical ties and have had thriving diplomatic relations, except for a brief while in the annals of Independent India, when ties were suspended in September 1955 over the then Goa imbroglio. But after the resolution of the issue and the reestablishment of formal diplomatic relations once again on December 31, 1974, the two countries have come to share an excellent political relationship that has been buttressed and reinforced by exchanges at the highest level through recent years. Through this piece, NRI Achievers brings you a glimpse of Indo-Portugese relations for our readers …
While the warm and friendly relations between India and Portugal are characterised by robust people-to-people contacts and close cultural links, there is substantial scope for enhancing bilateral trade and investment. Though bilateral trade has been growing steadily it is seen as being below full potential. With remedying this in mind, many agreements have been forged between the two countries in the years gone by, such as: the Agreement on Trade, Economic, Industrial and Technical Cooperation signed in 1977 to give an impetus and improve bilateral trade relations; an Agreement on Economic and Industrial Cooperation signed in April 2000; Bilateral Cooperation Agreements between FICCI and the Portuguese Institute for Foreign Trade and Investment (ICEP) in 1992; a Cooperation Agreement between Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Portuguese Association of Industries (AIP); and an Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation, in September 1988.
Trade between India and Portugal is expected to be touch 500 million Euros, the bulk of which is accounted for by exports from India. India ranks 48th on a destination list for Portuguese exports, which represent about a quarter of imports. Indian exports to Portugal consist mainly of marine products, cotton and synthetic textiles, leather, footwear, hides and skins, staple fibres, coffee, tea & spices, carpets, gems and jewellery, silk and silk products, tobacco, electrical machinery & parts, iron & steel products, dyeing & tanning products, and organic chemicals. Automobile spares and components, computer software, bicycles, scooters and other two wheelers, and rice have also been exported. Portuguese exports to India are mostly machinery and heavy equipment, with the balance consisting mainly of cork, cork products, pulp, paper products, organic chemicals and plastics.
The update and upgrade of Indo-Portuguese economic relationships was the major issue that H.E. Antonio Costa, Portuguese Prime Minister, addressed on his recently concluded State Visit to India, which happened during 7-12 January 2017. The Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, was also the Chief Guest at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) that was held between January 7 to 9, 2017 in Bengaluru, Karnataka.
Antonio Costa is the first Person of Indian Origin to lead a European country, but is not the first Portuguese of Goan origin to serve in Portuguese politics. Others before him too have been very active in public life and in politics, like the recently deceased Alfredo Bruto da Costa, the former MP Narana Coissoró and the former Foreign Minister Gonçalves Pereira. Taking advantage of his Indian roots, Antonio Costa was accompanied by five ministers and 30 business people and used the visit to seed and stimulate trade between the two countries, and has sought to reinforce mutual trust and complementarities between Portugal and India.
During his visit, several agreements were signed to advance bilateral cooperation in key sectors like Defence, Marine Research and Resources, Start-Ups, Agriculture and allied services, not to mention IT and Electronics. Both countries agreed to expand trade and investment by leveraging the huge untapped potential in priority sectors where Portuguese companies possess world-class niche technologies, experience, expertise and competencies such as infrastructure (Roads, Ports and Inland Waterways), Defence, Renewable Energy (Wind & Solar), IT & Start-Ups, Agriculture and Agro-food, Water and Waste management, Automotive, pharmaceuticals, and Tourism and Hospitality. There are also sectors in which both countries have developed know how and in which closer cooperation like medical research, aerospace or mobility.
India and Portugal have complementary economies and can verily take advantage of being part of different regions and markets. Portugal has been and will remain a strong advocate of India in Europe, hosting the first ever EU-India Summit and co-chairing another Summit during the Portuguese EU presidencies in 2000 and 2007, respectively. Portugal favours the rapid implementation of the outcomes of the March 2016 EU-India Summit, in particular the Agenda for Action 2020. Portugal can apropos be an ideal platform for Indian companies to address markets in Europe, especially those companies based out of London who today face the fallouts of the vexing BREXIT issue, and even Latin America and Africa where Portugal has many straight relationships.
After their visit to India Portugese Government members highlighted the relevant activity that has been generated since and mentioned the commitment to create the right conditions to take further the opportunities that are being created. One of the steps that are being taken is the organization of an Economic Forum, announced by the Indian Embassy in Portugal, to take place in the end of March, with the aim to gather investors and business people from both countries. Another event appointed as highly significant for business promotion opportunities between Portugal and India is the Horasis Global Meeting in Cascais, Portugal, on 28-29 May. The annual Horasis Global Meet is one of the world’s foremost gatherings of business leaders who interact with key government officials and eminent thought leaders.
This conference will have several numerous Diaspora participants who will share insights and innovations on how to best navigate the future. Several of these India Diaspora participants will be from Indian community in Portugal, a long established, well integrated and valued section of Portugese society in many ways. We, members of the Indian Diaspora of Portugal, are now creating and developing a ‘Portugal India Business Council’ platform to be the focus in the future economic synergies among the Portuguese Indian communities in Portugal and also other countries that have economic relationships with Portugal.
The Portugal India Business Council supports Overseas Portugal communities through business Opportunities, Networks, Regulations, Policy Advocacy, Services, and Promotion need to Succeed in Overseas Indian and Portuguese communities. We aim to create a bilateral business environment between India and Portugal by linking industry, business, governments, and supporting long-term business partnerships that will nurture the spirit of entrepreneurship, create jobs, and successfully contribute to create-value in Overseas Indian and Portuguese communities. The missions of the council are:
- To Promote cooperation and evolve thriving business relationships between Overseas Indian and Portuguese communities;
- To Promote economic cooperation between Portugal and India;
- To Provide a Networking forum for businessmen and professionals;
- To Link up with organisations of Overseas Indians and Portuguese communities dedicated to development of international trade;
- To Support companies, businessmen and professionals interested in Indian-Portuguese bilateral and overseas business opportunities, in particular to maintain close relationships with Indian and Portuguese Authorities, Promotion Boards and other government authorities;
- To promote policies and procedure suggestions to Indian and Portugal Governments to leverage business activities of Overseas Indians and Portuguese communities.
The philosophy behind the institution is that in these times of uncertainty and struggle, strife and separation where walls and divisions are being considered, let the Indian Diaspora across the world be an example of unity in diversity and with the inspiration of Mahatma Ghandi, “in a gentle way, shake the world”.