In March 2019, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind paid a visit to the Plurinational State of Bolivia. India and Bolivia share much in common in terms of foreign policy goals. Both countries have faith in a multilateral world order based on the principles of International Law as defined in the United Nations Charter. Both the countries are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement and the foreign policy of two nations is based on the principles enshrined in NAM. The two nations reaffirmed their commitment to deepen the ties of friendship and cooperation that unite their countries, in accordance with International Law and the principles and purposes consecrated in the United Nations Charter.

The multilateral issues of mutual interest, in particular reforms of the United Nations Security Council, fight against terrorism and climate change were the main themes that were discussed by Indian President with his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales Ayma. Reform of UNSC has been a long-standing demand of NAM since its inception. India and Bolivia reaffirmed their commitment to reformed multilateralism including comprehensive reforms of the UN Security Council to make it more democratic, representative, accountable, effective, and reflective of the new realities of the 21st Century, in order to guarantee and strengthen the multilateral system to face the new challenges and threats to international peace and security. Bolivia reiterated its support for India’s candidature and India thanked Bolivia for this valuable support for India’s Non-Permanent Membership of UNSC for the term 2021-22.

Terrorism was another issue that acquired a prominent theme in the discussions. There was an assertion by both sides that terrorism in all its form constitutes a grave threat to humanity. Both countries underlined the need for all States to resolutely fight terrorism. The two leaders affirmed the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice. Cross border terrorism was denounced in most stringent terms and Bolivian President Evo Morales strongly condemned Pulwama terror attack that took place on 14 February 2019. The two sides called upon all countries to strengthen cooperation to take decisive and concerted actions against globally proscribed terrorists and terrorist entities and for the early finalization of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

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. Indian President remarked that there was a need to diversify the trade basket to further strengthen the bilateral trade. India has also offered 100 million US Dollar Line of Credit to Bolivia for financing development projects under the framework of South-South Cooperation.

India and Bolivia signed 8 Memorandum of Understanding 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.

One of the MoU pertains to development and industrial use of lithium for the production of lithium-ion batteries. As part of the MoU, Bolivia will support supplies of lithium and lithium carbonate to India, as well as joint ventures between the two countries for lithium battery production plants in India. It may be mentioned here that Bolivia is home to 60% of world lithium reserves. This MoU has opened up a vast avenue for Indian companies as there is an increasing prospect of Indian companies setting up production capabilities in Bolivia goes up, as well as the import of lithium to India. Domestic production in India is also set to see a boost, from the automotive perspective.

This was the first high- level visit between India-Bolivia since the establishment of diplomatic relation and has elevated the relations between the two countries.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava