Historical links and future potential

CONSTANTINO XAVIER

back to issue

MORE people speak Portuguese as their native language than French, German, Italian or Japanese. With close to 250 million speakers, it is the fifth most spoken language in the world and official in eight countries across four continents, five being in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe) and one each in Europe (Portugal), South America (Brazil) and Asia (Timor-Leste). Portuguese is an official language in Macau (China) and is also spoken by thousands of people in smaller regions across the world, including in Goa, Daman and Diu.

At the diplomatic level, the language enjoys an official status at several international institutions and regional organizations, including the European Union, Mercorsur, the African Union and the Organization of American States. There is also an active movement to make it the seventh official language at the United Nations.

The political dimension of the language is institutionalized in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), founded in 1996. It is based on the inter-governmental models of the Commonwealth and Francophonie organizations and has all eight Portuguese speaking countries as its members. Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius and Senegal serve as associate observers (China and Indonesia have also expressed interest, but India not yet). The eighth CPLP summit, held in 2010 in Luanda, marked the beginning of Angola’s first presidency over the organization.

 

This immense Lusosphere and its intimate historical connections to South Asia through almost five centuries of Portuguese colonialism are, however, often ignored in contemporary India. This is not surprising given India’s largely Anglophone (and sometimes Anglophile) elite and the persistent British influence in a variety of domains, from Indian historiography to the legal and political systems adopted.

With this influence also came old British biases against other ‘inferior colonialisms’, including the Portuguese ‘civilizing mission’ in India that had proclaimed to be in search of ‘Christians and spices’. Fundamental to this negative image were the views of a military official in the East India Company, Richard Burton and his publication of Goa, and the Blue Mountains in 1851. Surprisingly, the book remains a popular item on Goa’s list of travel literature and is also quoted extensively, with several reprints (while the superb two-volume Etnografia da Índia Portuguesa by A. Lopes Mendes remains largely unknown and untranslated).

Returning to Burton, and his visit to Goa in 1850, on sick leave from Bombay, he notes: ‘…if acting upon Albuquerque’s fatal theory, we encourage intermarriage with the natives of the country, such colony would be worse than useless to us. We cannot but think that the Hindoos are the lowest branch of the Caucasian or Iranian family; and, moreover, that, contrary to what might be expected, any intermixture of blood with the higher classes of that same race produces a still inferior development. (…) What Goa has done may serve as a lesson to us. She compelled or induced good Hindoos and Muslims to become bad Christians.’1 

The Portuguese colonial encounter in India that Burton saw in the 19th century was therefore judged as being not only materially inferior, especially as a consequence of a decrepit imperial power that had reached it zenith more than three centuries ago, but also as incapable of embracing the modern age of industrialization. It was also morally condemnable. By compromising on their purity through local contact and assimilation, the Portuguese had created ‘the Goan’, an inferior hybrid category.

 

But Burton’s argument must be comprehended and extended beyond the mere issues of ethnicity and blood: this strange Goan category he refers to as ‘bad Christians’ or as the new colony ‘worse than useless to us’, also found representation in Portuguese India’s political, educational, legal and military systems, as well as in its social structure and even its architecture. In Burton’s eye, and those of his fellow British Orientalists, these constructs were alien and indicative of an ‘inferior development’ because they incorporated both colonial and local elements.

While this essay’s objective is different, it should suffice to note that these images of Goa have found their way into the contemporary images of Goa held by many constituencies in post-independence India. Portuguese colonialism had, at best (for Bollywood and the cultural elites) produced a strange, lazy and fun-loving people content with very little, and, at worst (for Hindutva and the culturalist agendas) an ephemeral impurity that required cleansing and re-assimilation into the mainstream. In either case, there were few incentives to recognize the singularity of these little Indian Lusospheres as the result of a colonial strategy that differed fundamentally from the British one largely obsessed with retaining the purity of blood and socio-political forms.

 

There is also a more recent factor that may have contributed to India’s Lusophone estrangement. The 1947-1974 conflict between India and Portugal delayed the advent of normal political relations until 1975. Except for brief interruptions, in effective political terms the Lusosphere was absent from New Delhi, and in North India in general, ever since the last Portuguese Jesuit emissaries left the Mughal court. And the re-engagement in the 20th century could not have been worse, marked by a protracted diplomatic dispute featuring Lisbon and New Delhi on opposite geopolitical sides (Portugal as a NATO member; India as a proud nonaligned leader), punctuated by a brief military conflict in 1961.

But half a century has passed since then and there are finally encouraging indicators of a change in attitude. Given New Delhi’s increasing attempts to explore potential niche diplomacies to access natural resources, sustain economic growth and leverage its global influence, it is thus not surprising that there is an interest in exploring India’s Lusophone heritage and connections as an added value to its engagement with Portuguese speaking countries, particularly in Brazil and Africa.

For example, in an unprecedented move with important diplomatic implications, the Indian Olympic Association agreed in 2006 to become a member of the Association of the Portuguese speaking Olympic Associations. It has since then agreed twice to participate in the Lusophone Games (Jogos da Lusofonia) with a delegation from the Goa Olympic Association, and also backed Goa’s successful bid to host the third edition in 2013.

In particular, India’s diplomatic and economic relations with Lusophone Africa have witnessed an unprecedented intensity over the last five years. This is reflected in the number of bilateral visits, delegations and agreements signed – totalling 29 only in Mozambique between 2007 and 2009. More importantly, there is a diversification in terms of the actors engaged, beyond the past centrality of the ministries of external affairs and commerce: frequent official guests from India now also include delegations and representatives from the defence, agriculture, overseas Indian affairs and other ministries. The best indicator is perhaps the more than twelve-fold increase in India’s trade volume with the Portuguese speaking countries of Africa – from little more than US$ 400 million in 2005-06 to almost US$ 5.5 billion in 2009-10.

 

Finally, India is also driven by an ‘emulationist’ impulse, following its neighbour across the Himalayas. Beijing has established the Macau Forum in 2003 as a high-level ministerial meeting with all eight CPLP member countries. This dialogue, and the project to transform Macau into China’s Lusophone hub, has been identified as a major force behind the country’s successful engagement with the Portuguese speaking economies, with total trade crossing $ 50 billion in 2010.2 

This essay reviews the current state of relations between India and the eight Portuguese speaking countries, argues for the importance of a renewed engagement by India, and ends by suggesting seven concrete policy measures to do so.3 

 

While diplomatic relations exist since 1948, India’s links to Brazil have witnessed unprecedented growth since former President Lula came to power in 2003 – he visited India three times in four years. The BRIC country, which is also the world’s largest Portuguese speaking country both in size (approximately that of the USA) and population (almost 200 million people), emerged as a central partner in India’s efforts to re-engage with the ‘Global South’, most notably under the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) axis. Bilateral relations are at their best, and Brazil, in particular financial hubs like São Paulo, now plays a larger role as India’s gateway to Latin America.

This high growth economy offers several opportunities for India to explore, from potential oil reserves to a booming industry and a services sector that has already attracted several Indian investments, especially in IT, energy and pharmaceuticals. As a consequence, economic relations (which were insignificant until the 1980s) have witnessed an impressive growth, with a triplication in trade volume over the last five years alone. Defence relations have also prospered, from naval exercises such as IBSAMAR to the acquisition of several Embraer jets by the Indian Air Force.

In terms of historical relations linking both countries, few may know that the Portuguese transported the coffee plant from India to Brazil in the 18th century and that the cashew nut travelled the other way. Another example of these early exchanges is the Brazilian Jesuit Francisco de Souza, who was a Superior at Goa’s Bom Jesus Basilica in the second half of the 17th century. The Brazilian anthropologist Gilberto Freyre visited Goa in 1951, seeking to apply his concept of lusotropicalismo to Portuguese India. He was followed two years later by one of Brazil’s greatest contemporary writers, Cecília Meireles, who also visited New Delhi, where she was warmly welcomed by Jawaharlal Nehru and conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Delhi.

In the opposite direction, already in the 20th century, several Goans migrated to Brazil, including Professor Froilano de Mello in 1951, after being ostracized by Salazar’s dictatorship for his staunch defence of civil rights in Portuguese India. São Paulo has a street named after him, while the local Medical College dedicated one of its halls in his honour. The late Professor Eduardo Judas de Barros, who headed the Department of Afro-Asian Studies at the State University of Londrina in Paraná, was one of the founders of modern Indian studies in Brazil. The work of Mario Miranda was also deeply influenced by his visits to the country.

 

In 2001, the Indian government estimated nearly 1500 people of Indian origin and 400 non-resident Indians to be residing in Brazil, but these numbers must have increased dramatically since then as an unprecedented number of Indian companies have set up shop, especially in São Paulo, after India opened its Consulate there in 1996, followed by an India-Brazil Chamber of Commerce in 2006.

In the opposite direction, driven by a neo-Orientalist fascination with an India that is increasingly depicted in soap-operas, film festivals and other segments of popular culture, thousands of Brazilians have been visiting India in recent years, and many stayed on to explore professional opportunities, including a new wave of football players and coaches. Brasilia has also taken the initiative of actively promoting the Portuguese language in India, funding a Brazilian chair at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and another one at Goa University.

 

Relations with Portugal have also changed drastically. After the Carnation Revolution of April 1974, which ended the authoritarian Estado Novo, it took only eight months for a provisional democratic government in Portugal to recognize India’s sovereignty over Goa, Daman and Diu. But while diplomatic relations were thus normalized, except for one or the other protocol or courtesy visit devoid of any economic significance, India and Portugal would remain largely estranged for a long time. For example, it would take almost 35 years for a Portuguese prime minister to visit India – this finally happened in 2007, with a brief, one-day bilateral visit attached to a EU-India summit.

This was natural given both countries’ contrasting orientations during the last quarter of the 20th century. For Portugal, the priority was to achieve its economic consolidation through political integration within Europe. The ‘old empire’ was deemed a ‘closed chapter’, especially in faraway Asia, where Macau and the unsettled question of Timor-Leste were seen as a sufficient diplomatic burden for the small country.

On the other hand, Lisbon offered very little of interest to New Delhi, especially while India remained a closed economy. Even after it embraced economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, New Delhi preferred to concentrate on bilateral relations with the larger European countries, to the detriment of Brussels and smaller countries like Portugal. This was only aggravated with the economic opening up of the Eastern European countries, in the early 2000s, with which India had maintained strong links throughout the Cold War.

The Portuguese officials who now visit India observe a country quite different from the one that greeted Vasco da Gama back in 1498. Unlike then, when mighty Portuguese cannons ruled the seas and set the rules, it is India that now occupies a central position in the international system.

The ironies of history are truly remarkable. Half a millennium ago, Portuguese vessels roamed the Malabar coast, searching for ports of entry to the rich Indian and eastern spice markets. Today, Portugal comes to India promoting itself as a port of entry to the West and as a strategic platform for Indian interests in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

 

What advantages does Portugal offer to India in this ‘Asian century’? Above all, its strategic situation at the western-most tip of Europe, facing the Atlantic Ocean, with a dynamic economy recovering from recession, including a vibrant tourism sector and world class services, textiles and automobile industries, all ready to be a part of India’s economic miracle. The recession has hit the country hard, but that has not kept Indian companies away from investing in Portugal.

For example, Lisbon now hosts the TCS office for Latin America and, given its immense expertise and closeness to Luanda and Maputo, it can also facilitate India’s entry into Angola and Mozambique, as well as other Lusophone countries in which it remains influential at the political level. Indian investors are also keen on exploring opportunities in the energy sector, as Portugal is now the third largest producer of renewable energy in Europe.

At the same time, Portuguese companies are slowly discovering their niche in India – from infrastructure (EFACEC, and also Cimpor in the cement sector), to wines, textiles, industrial machinery, and transport systems (Brisa manages Mumbai’s famous Sea Link).

While bilateral trade and investment volumes have not improved significantly, they are expected to soar in 5-10 years, when Portuguese and Indian investments start to consolidate and offer returns. However, the most important objective – political normalization – has now been achieved, also allowing for India to deal with its Lusophone dimension, including Goa, at greater ease. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remarkably signalled this in a statement on the occasion of the Portuguese prime minister’s visit to New Delhi in 2007, in which he noted that ‘the richness of Portuguese culture in Goa, Daman and Diu is well known to every Indian, and we celebrate this legacy.’4 

 

While India fostered close relationships with the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) even during colonial times, and was actually one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Maputo after 1975, links only intensified following the opening of a Mozambican High Commission in New Delhi in 2002, and the establishment of a Joint Commission for Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technical Cooperation.

External Affairs Minister Krishna’s recent proposal to establish a ‘strategic partnership’ and his reference to the coastal country as one of India’s ‘gateways’ to Africa, reflects the privileged position Mozambique now enjoys in New Delhi’s eyes. The visit of Shashi Tharoor (then Minister of State for External Relations) to attend the inauguration of President Gebuza’s second term in January 2010, further highlights this importance.

 

On the economic front, India is among the eight major trading partners of Mozambique and, with a total of US$ 64 million, the fourth largest source of foreign investment. The country’s potential is reflected in the Confederation of Indian Industries’ selection of Maputo to host one of the 2007 regional India-Africa project partnership conclaves. From the Mozambican perspective, India is now addressed as a ‘source of inspiration’, in the words of its current ambassador in New Delhi.5 

Mozambique’s coal and gas reserves have been of particular interest to India’s growing energy demands. In 2008, Coal India was awarded the exploration of two blocks in the province of Tete, with estimated reserves of between 500 million and one billion tonnes. In October 2009, Tata Steel announced in cooperation with Riversdale, an investment of $ 270 million to develop a coal mine in Benga that is expected to produce about 1.7 million metric tons of coking coal used in steelmaking, and 300,000 tons of thermal coal for export. BPRL Ventures Mozambique, an overseas subsidiary of Bharat Petro Resources, and Videocon each hold an 11.75% per cent stake in the Windjammer gas block in the Rovuma basin, which announced positive results in March 2010.

Such a focus on natural resources has also led to a larger interest in Mozambique as an attractive investment destination. To facilitate this, the Government of India has, since 2004, provided five lines of credit totalling US$ 140 million, mostly for rural electrification, water management and information technology (IT) projects. On the infrastructure side, RITES and IRCO retain a majority share in the consortium that renovated the 665 km long Sena railway line connecting the Beira port to the Moatize coal basin in Tete province. Mozambique has also expressed interest in drawing on India’s experience in the sector of small-scale industries and agro-food processing in cashew nuts, coconut, cotton, tea and rice.

Reflecting centuries of close links across the western Indian Ocean, there are about 1000 Indian nationals (NRIs) and 20,000 people of Indian origin (PIO) in Mozambique. This sizeable community, and the realization of its importance as a bridge for Indian interests in Southern Africa, has led to the visits of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi, in 2007, and of Eduardo Faleiro, Commissioner for NRIs, Goa Government, in 2008.

 

India also plays an important role in cooperation and development aid in Mozambique. In 2008, training slots under the ITEC programme increased from 20 to 30, in addition to the 15 scholarships provided by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). There are also plans to provide US$ 15 million for environmental management programmes in the areas of climate change, reforestation, prevention of soil depletion and technical training, in collaboration with Delhi’s TERI (The Resources and Energy Institute).

Finally, Mozambique also plays a central role in India’s expanding security interests in Africa. The strategic importance of the Mozambique channel and the country’s proximity to sea lines of communication affected by resurgent piracy off the East Africa coast, have led India to develop close security relations, which include the signing of a MoU on defence cooperation in 2006. Naval cooperation includes training and joint patrols, the transfer of several Indian vessels to the Mozambican navy and coast guard, as well as the deployment of Indian ships to ensure the offshore security of international events held in Maputo, as during the African Union summit in 2003.

 

Less developed and diversified, India’s relations with Angola are anchored in historical relations with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) which, after the end of the civil war in 2002, continues to maintain a firm political grip over one of the fastest growing and resource rich African economies. India set up its embassy in Luanda in 1986, following Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Angola the same year, which was reciprocated by President José Eduardo dos Santos a year later.

Bilateral relations now seem to have recovered from the 2006 debacle, in which ONGC lost out to its Chinese rival SINOPEC on a major oil exploration bid. Angola’s enormous reserves are now back on the bilateral agenda, following the visit of Indian Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Murli Deora, to Luanda in 2010. This has resulted in an ONGC-Sonangol joint bidding agreement, to Gas Authority of India’s (GAIL) expression of interest in taking equity in a planned liquefied natural gas plant, and to the development of Indian Oil Corporation’s plans to build a refinery in southern Angola. The Indian ambassador’s recent visit to the enclave of Cabinda, where most of the country’s oil reserves are located, further reflects India’s interest in guaranteeing its future share of the Angolan ‘black gold’.

India currently imports 5% of its crude oil needs from Angola, though this is not reflected in India’s official statistics. Total bilateral trade, which was a mere US$ 10 million at the end of the 1990s, has witnessed an exponential boom, settling close to the five billion mark in 2009-10. This increase is partially motivated by India’s import of Angolan raw diamonds, which are then polished in Maharashtra and Gujarat, before being re-exported. Angola is the world’s fifth largest producer of diamonds by value and ENDIAMA, its public diamond mining company, announced in 2008 its plans to open an office in Mumbai.

 

As in Mozambique, India’s Exim Bank and the State Bank of India (with a branch in Luanda since 2005) have also launched around ten lines of credit, in the total value of $US 120 million, to facilitate the penetration of Indian investments and goods into Angola. This includes the rehabilitation project of the Mocamedes Railway in the South, of which the first phase from the port of Namibe was completed in 2007, as well as support towards acquisition of Indian transport, agricultural and industrial equipment, including one thousand buses, a new industrial park and a cotton ginning and spinning plant.

While Larsen and Toubro has expressed its interest in the booming Angolan infrastructure sector, Angolan companies have also started looking for Indian investors to finance their expansion. Procafé, Angola’s premier coffee company, for example, has taken a loan of US$ 1.25 million from an Indian retail bank.

However, unlike Mozambique, India’s engagement with Angola remains largely focused on natural resources and infrastructure development. Technical cooperation or defence relations remain relatively underdeveloped. The country does not have a significant number of Indian citizens or people of Indian origin. At the same time, Angola is part of the group of six exceptional African countries that have not yet agreed to join the Pan-African E-Network, India’s major project towards linking the continent through telemedicine, -education and -conference.

 

India has no formal diplomatic representation in Guinea Bissau, on the western African mainland, nor in Cape Verde, the archipelago facing it. Here again, India played an important role in extending diplomatic support to the freedom struggle against Portuguese rule, led by the revolutionary Amílcar Cabral and his African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

Economic relations and total trade (close to $ 200 million in 2009-10) with Guinea Bissau are based on the export of almost the entire local cashew crop to India for processing. The country has also been awarded ten annual slots under ITEC, under which five Guinean women are undergoing training at Rajasthan’s Barefoot College to install and maintain solar energy facilities. Guinea Bissau has been extended a line of credit of $ 25 million under the Team-9 project, of which it is one of the members. Under the IBSA Trust Fund, India has contributed towards projects for renewable energy and agricultural capacity building in Guinea Bissau to the value of $ 830,000.

India’s relations with Cape Verde are the least developed among all five Lusophone African countries, perhaps reflecting the country’s peripheral location, lack of economic weight and overall underdevelopment. The visit of Cape Verde’s foreign minister to India in November 2009 signalled some change, with the country joining the Pan-African E-network, but trade relations remain almost insignificant, at less than one million USD in 2009-10.

India has thus been expanding its role in terms of development aid and technical cooperation. This includes five slots under ITEC and a line of credit to the value of US$ 5 million for a technology park project. This reflects Cape Verde’s ambition to see India emerge as a ‘strategic partner’ in its efforts to modernize its IT sector. Both Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde are also entitled to access India’s line of credit to Ecowas Bank, set up in 2006, to the value of US$ 250 million, and directed towards investments in energy, telecommunications and transportation infrastructure.

India’s relations with Sao Tome and Principe are routed through its embassy in Luanda and have witnessed a dramatic turn after the discovery of vast oil reserves off the archipelago. The Nigeria-Sao Tome Joint Development Zone is being developed in a 60-40 split with Nigeria and includes two blocs in which ONGC Videsh and Aban Offshore have a stake in exploration. More recently, ONGC has also expressed interest in exploring seven further blocks located within Sao Tome’s exclusive economic zone.

At the same time, total trade grew threefold over the last five years. These new developments have led Sao Tome’s minister of foreign affairs to visit New Delhi in November 2009 – the first ever high-level visit between both countries – resulting in a MoU on business relations and a protocol on foreign office consultations. A US$ 1 million grant, and a US$ 5 million line of credit for capacity building, agriculture and infrastructure are under discussion.

 

Skeptics of the idea of adding a Lusophone dimension to India’s foreign relations may point out that there is little scope to engage such a diverse and geographically disperse lot of countries – from powerhouse Brazil to tiny Timor – under a single policy. But anyone who has crossed the corridors of international diplomacy or attended bilateral business conclaves will recognize the continuing importance of language. When proceedings are conducted in English or even when translators facilitate interaction, communication tends to be sub-optimal, punctuated by occasional misunderstandings and tensions.

 

The issue becomes even more important at lower levels of engagement, beyond official high-level meetings. From an ITEC or ICCR sponsored Angolan or Mozambican attending an Indian educational or training programme, to Portuguese or Brazilian businessmen looking for investment opportunities in Bangalore – language still poses as a major hurdle and will continue to constrain India’s capacity to explore the full potential of relations with Portuguese speaking countries and attract their investment and talent.

At the political level, relations with all eight Lusophone countries have witnessed an unprecedented expansion over the last five years. Twenty years ago, Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique or Timor-Leste were hardly on the Indian diplomatic and business radar. Today, the situation is radically different: New Delhi shares the IBSA forum with Brasilia; it has hosted the first-ever visit by a Portuguese Prime Minister in 2007; Angola emerged as one of India’s main African trading partners; Mozambique is now referred to as India’s ‘gateway to Africa’ and one of the success stories of its Africa policy; and there is even talk about opening an Indian Embassy in Dili, the Timorese capital, President Ramos-Horta having repeatedly underlined his admiration for the Indian model of development.

On the economic front, India’s economic engagement with these countries is already at an advanced stage. A quick glance at total trade figures of India with the eight members of the CPLP and the region of Macau indicates that despite the global recession, it has grown almost five-fold in just five years, from US$ 3.6 billion in 2006-07 to $ 15.3 billion in 2010-11. This now represents almost 2.5 per cent of India’s total trade, up from little more than one per cent five years ago (see Table).

TABLE

India’s Surging Trade With the Lusophone Countries and Macau

 

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

Brazil

2,441.60

3,475.85

3,837.39

5,852.25

7,519.68

Angola

446.60

1,286.21

1,756.70

4,877.85

5,795.11

Mozambique

220.91

490.18

459.38

427.14

710.60

Portugal

397.52

531.6

497.36

445.63

617.64

Timor-Leste

1.11

0.46

1.13

1.23

547.78

Guinea Bissau

50.03

68.32

136.80

187.39

62.49

Cape Verde

0.41

0.43

0.72

0.81

2.51

Macau

1.82

4.88

5.74

40.94

1.60

Sao Tome and Principe

0.88

1.47

1.05

1.27

1.17

TOTAL

3,560.8

5,859.4

6,696.27

11,834.51

15,258.58

Percentage of India’s total trade

1.14

1.42

1.36

2.53

2.45

* Figures in million US$. Excludes the import of petroleum products and crude oil.

Source: Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Data available at http://commerce.nic.in/eidb/default.asp

India is also meeting Brazil and Portugal during its 2011-12 mandate in the UN Security Council, further opening new roads for cooperation, especially on the issues of peacekeeping and reform of the international institutions.

 

The economic and strategic importance of the Lusophone world to India’s interests cannot be minimized. Each of the countries offers a distinct stake for Indian interests, and together they represent eight valuable votes and a lot of influence on the global stage. This Lusophone niche of Indian diplomacy could also be embedded within its larger ‘Look South’ policy, but it first requires concrete initiatives.

 

There are eight possibilities on how to re-engage:

1. India joining the CPLP as an observer member: Given its strong historical links with Lusophone regions, especially with Brazil, Mozambique, and Portugal, as well as its Portuguese speaking communities in Goa, Daman and Diu, there is no reason why India should not be entitled to enjoy an associate observer status with the CPLP. Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius and Senegal have all succeeded in acquiring such a status, and even China and Indonesia have expressed their interest. Such a role would allow New Delhi to attend the summits as an observer and participate in a limited way in some of the organizations’ activities, especially in terms of people-to-people and economic cooperation, but also on the technical or military dimension, including the embryonic idea of a Lusophone peacekeeping force.

2. Political dialogue – Mumbai Forum: India could also follow the example of the Macau Forum, instituted by China in 2003 as a high-level ministerial meeting with all eight CPLP member countries. This dialogue has been identified as a major force behind China’s successful engagement with the Lusophone economies, with total trade crossing $ 50 billion in 2010. In India, former Union Minister for External Affairs, Eduardo Faleiro, proposed a similar idea in 2009, calling for a ‘biannual structured dialogue’ between India and the CPLP countries, possibly in Mumbai, which after all was Portuguese until offered to Britain as dowry in 1661. The focus could be on a high-level, possibly ministerial level, perhaps with a rotating thematic focus, from economic to security and cultural issues. This could be held in parallel to a business conclave, in collaboration with organizations like CII or FICCI.

3. Civil Society and Track-2 – Goa Forum: Perhaps in parallel to the high level political dialogue, or as a low-cost pilot initiative, Goa could host an informal annual dialogue between Indian and invited Lusophone retired government officials, young leaders, entrepreneurs, and scholars, among others. Ideally structured around one specific theme ever year (from a very diverse lot including renewable energy, regional integration, cross-cultural relations, civil society, economy etc.), this would serve as a catalyst, eventually spilling over into new levels of cooperation and initiatives between India and the lusophone countries. The Goa state government, local and national companies could serve as sponsors. The Goa International Centre could serve as an excellent location.

4. Research – Collaborative projects: India is intimately linked by over five centuries of history with most Lusophone countries, but this past and the associated socio-cultural and economic flows remain largely unknown or understudied. Under the umbrella of the Government of India or bilateral agreements, selected Indian higher education institutions should be encouraged to partner for specific research projects with their Lusophone counterparts of excellence (mainly in Brazil and Portugal). For example, an open-call for collaborative research projects in various disciplines (including specific areas such as tropical medicine, oceanography or legal issues, including Goa’s unique civil code) would bring scholars and experts together and produce very useful outputs. Many cooperation and exchange agreements with Brazilian and Portuguese universities are already in place in many of these domains.

5. Portuguese language training: India could also explore educational institutions in Goa, Daman and Diu as hosts for Portuguese speaking students and officials who are selected to visit India under various ICCR and ITEC programmes. Linguistic and cultural barriers are the most frequent reason invoked by many African grantees to explain their disinterest in vacant scholarship slots or negative experiences while in India. Portuguese speaking Angolan or Mozambican awardees of these Indian scholarships are, however, far more open to the idea of studying or getting training in Goa, either in Portuguese or in English, in a much more familiar context than in other Indian cities. Since India is already considering offering ITEC training in French language, there is no reason why Portuguese should not be added as an attractive incentive for these visiting Lusophone scholars and officials.

Recognizing this potential, former Mozambican minister of Indian origin, Oscar Monteiro, recently called for Goa to play a ‘driving role’ in such efforts to bring India closer to his country.6

6. Sports: Sporting events and cooperation are often the first step towards cooperation at different levels. Thus leading the way in an unprecedented move, the Indian Olympic Association agreed in 2006 to become a member of the Association of the Portuguese speaking Olympic Associations. It has since then agreed to participate in the first two editions of the ‘Lusophone Games’ (Macau and Lisbon), with an Indian delegation exclusively composed of athletes from the state of Goa. It also backed Goa’s successful bid to host the third edition of these games in 2013, an event which should be supported with all means. Several Brazilian and Portuguese football players, coaches and even companies have started to come to India for a career and to explore business opportunities in sports (Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup).

7. Upgrading and exploring India’s Lusophone infrastructure: Finally, in order to achieve any of these targets and guarantee its influence in the lusophone world, India will require the adequate diplomatic expertise and institutional support. Three CPLP countries – Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe – are among only eleven African countries without an Indian embassy, high commission or honorary consulate. There are also very few Indian diplomats and scholars that master Portuguese or have a specific expertise on a Portuguese speaking country. At the same time, however, several Indian army and civilian officials have lived in Lusophone countries in several capacities, the most recent case being that of Atul Khare, who led the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste. Their experience could serve as a valuable asset for India’s newest niche diplomacy. The same applies to the hundreds of Lusophone government and military officials, scholars, journalists and civil society activists that have been trained in India over the past decades – they will have to play a central role in any strategy that seeks to put India on the Lusophone radar.

 

Footnotes:

1. Goa, and the Blue Mountains; or Six Months of Sick Leave, University of California Press, 1991, pp. 156, 162.

2. See ‘China and the Macau Forum’ by Lucy Corkin: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/africa_china/56116

3. Some sections of this essay are revised versions from an earlier essay by Constantino Xavier in Africa Quarterly (ICCR, New Delhi, August 2010) and from his research and publications as a visiting fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

4. ‘PM’s Statement on India-Portugal Bilateral Summit’, 1 December 2007: http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=33588

5. ‘India is a source of inspiration for Mozambique: Envoy’: http://sify.com/finance/india-is-source-of-inspiration-for-mozambique- envoy-news-default-kdqq4dbhfcg.html

6. ‘Call for better ties between India, Mozambique’, accessed on 23 July 2010 at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-5425432,prtpage-1.cms

top