Mexico-India A Tale of Friendship and Cooperation


In 2007, during former Mexican President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa’s sojourn to India, the bilateral relationship was elevated into a 'Privileged Partnership'

The Indo-Mexican bilateral relations stand out as an epitome of strong diplomatic tradition in international relations today. This burgeoning relationship is founded on the elements of mutual trust and understanding, and is characterised by warmth, friendly and cordial ties. The bonhomie between these two democracies is instituted in their striking similarities of history, geography, civilization, and culture and most importantly they are emerging economies at similar stage of development.

Political Relations

Historically, Mexico was the first Latin American country to recognize India after her independence. Consequently formal diplomatic relations were established in the year 1950. Later, it matured into a flourishing and cohesive friendship in the coming decades. Interestingly Ms. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was India’s first ambassador to Mexico.

There have been frequent high level exchanges between the heads of state and other official dignitaries from both the countries. From the Indian side, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Indian head of government to make an official state visit to Mexico in 1961. This gesture was reciprocated by President Adolfo Lopez Mateos in 1962. Consequently, several other leaders from both sides led delegations to the other nation. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1981), President Giani Zail Singh (1984), Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1986) headed Indian delegations to Mexico. Similarly, President Luis Echeverria Alvarez (1975), President Jose Lopez Portillo (1981), President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1985) and President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa led Mexican delegations to India. Such frequent high level visits were a clear indicator of the deep-rooted desire of both the countries to engage with each other, in a robust relationship.

In 2007, during former Mexican President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa’s sojourn to India, the bilateral relationship was elevated into a ‘Privileged Partnership’. Till date, as many as 11 high level visits of the head of state/government have taken place between both sides. The last such visit from the Indian front was piloted by President Pratibha Patil in 2008.

Win-Win Partnership

India and Mexico have constantly sought to forge cooperation through engaging in interactive mechanisms such as the high level group on trade, investment and economic cooperation, foreign office consultations and joint commission meetings. On October 22nd 2014, the sixth India-Mexico Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) was held. The session was co-chaired by Indian External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj and Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Jose Antonio Meade Kuribrena. This was the first time, since its establishment in 1984, that the JCM was held at the ministerial level. Such developments project a sustained upward trajectory for the promising friendship.

Further, India and Mexico have often championed each other’s stand at the world stage, on various global issues such as climate change, global economic architecture, nuclear disarmament and trade. In fact, they have closely cooperated on several international fora such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations (UN) and the G8 Outreach Dialogue.

A number of bilateral agreements have also been concluded between the two countries. These include Cultural Agreement (1975), Agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology (1975), Cultural Exchange Program (2005), Educational Exchange Program (2005), Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in SMEs (2006), Extradition Treaty (2007), Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (2007), Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (2007), Air Services Agreement (2008), MoU on Cooperation in the Field of New and Renewable Energy (2008).

Economic Ties

A deepening cooperation in the “Privileged Partnership” is reflected in the rapid rise of trade and mutual investments between these two emerging economies. Although dynamic in nature, it is widely believed that both the countries are still poised to harness their full potential. Indian Ambassador Sujan Chinoy has aptly stated, “Mexico’s brisk economic growth and the unfolding potential of its manufacturing sector support the increasingly optimistic outlook regarding its future as an investment destination with access to NAFTA and beyond”. Such statements appropriately reflect India’s interest in engaging with this Latin American country both politically as well as commercially.

It must be reiterated that due to less barriers, high purchasing capacity and better means of transport, the Indo-Mexican trade has been greatly boosted in the past decade. Annual bilateral trade witnessed a surge from $2.9 billion in 2008 to $ 4 billion in 2013. It is widely speculated that bilateral trade would surge by 150 percent and touch upon the $10 billion mark by 2015. Crude oil is the major constituent of the Mexican export basket to India. Apart from crude oil, engineering goods, iron and steel and fertilizers are the others components that India imports from Mexico. India, on the other hand, exports a well-diversified basket of goods consisting of auto parts & automobiles, pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, petrochemicals, diamonds, gasoline, textile and garments. Interestingly, India’s exports to Mexico grew at 33 percent in 2011.

Several Indian software companies such as Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services are already present in Mexico. To add to it pharmaceutical companies namely Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Wockhardt and Ranbaxy have also made inroads into the Mexican society. Despite this thriving economic bond the balance of trade remains largely in favour of India. There is great scope for economic integration in the future in the service sector, especially in IT and software. A major challenge confronted by both countries with regard to their expansion of commercial ties are the factors like geographical distance, expensive credit, language barrier and most importantly the lack of interest of several Indian companies in exploring long-term linkages. Notwithstanding these challenges, India has made sustained endeavour to institute close commercial ties with Mexico. Granting a line of credit worth $10 million by the Exim Bank of India to Bancomext, its Mexican counterpart is a case in point.

Soft Power Relations

To encourage greater interaction, the leadership in both countries have promoted their soft power strategies. To this end, academic exchanges have undoubtedly played a major role. However, the potential to soar the relations to a greater height – through encouraging people-to-people interaction, offering opportunities like student exchange programs and scholarships – could be further explored.

Further, there lies greater scope for collaboration in the sphere of science and technology. President Calderon during his State visit to India (2007) had mentioned in an interview that, Mexico seeks to establish communication networks between its scientific communities and their Indian counterparts, in the sphere of electronics, seismology, research centres and usage of energy, water and environment.

Apart from the above mentioned realms, Indian culture and tradition has mainly reached Mexico through the Indian film industry. However, here too, there lies substantial scope for Bollywood films to make further inroads into the Mexican society.

Although, soft power relations have been in place between both sides, this is an area with vastly untapped potential. It is likely that the leaders of both India and Mexico would emphasize on this realm and take the bilateral relationship a step ahead, in the forthcoming years.

Cultural Relations

There has been an active endeavour by both India and Mexico to maintain a dynamic and effective exchange of culture, diversity and tradition annually. In 2010, the Gurudev Tagore Indian Cultural Centre in Mexico was instituted as a result of the unwarranted interest of Mexicans in Indian culture, yoga, music and dance. Cultural troupes from India participate and perform in cultural festivals in Mexico every year. The distinguished Mexican institute ‘El Colegio de Mexico’ has a centre of Indian studies. Here in 2010, ICCR established ‘Octavio Paz Chair of Indian Studies’.

Apart from 15 ITEC slots, four scholarships are offered annually to Mexican citizens by the Government of India. To add to it, the tourism industry in both countries has received a great boost in the recent years. There has been an increase in the influx of Mexican travellers into India, both for business as well as pleasure. It was reported by the Embassy of Mexico that the number of visas issued by it annually has witnessed a rise by 60 percent from the year 2006 to 2011. Similarly, there has been a surge in the number of Indian visitors to Mexico whereby as many as 25000 Indian tourists visited Mexico in the year 2011.

In 2013, a replica of the Labna’s Arch was inaugurated by the former Delhi Chief Minister, Mrs. Sheila Dikshit at the Garden of Five Senses (New Delhi). This architectural structure stands as a testimony of decades of political, economic and artistic exchanges between India and Mexico. The idea was conceived almost a decade ago by former Mexican Ambassador Julio Faesler and was finally executed with the support of INTACH, Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation and most importantly the Delhi Government.

The Way Ahead

Thus, Mexico is a dynamic, modern state in whom India finds a reliable partner. The relationship deserves a much higher priority in the foreign policy agenda of both nations at the present moment. Nobel Prize winner and former Ambassador to India, Octavia Paz had once mentioned, “All great things done by men have been born of dialogue”. In line with this vision the tradition of active political engagement between Mexico and India must go on, in the years ahead.

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Shaheli Das

Shaheli Das is PhD scholar in East Asian Studies Dept (Specialisation China) and Research Associate at Centre for Air Power Studies

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