KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – India’s Union Cabinet on Monday approved a pact with Bolivia for bilateral cooperation in geology and mineral resources.
“The Union Cabinet has given ex-post facto approval of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between India and Bolivia on cooperation in the fields of geology and mineral resources,” a government statement said.
“The MoU will provide an institutional mechanism between India and Bolivia for the transfer of technology, promotion of value addition and development of joint strategies in geology and mineral resources,” the statement added.
The MoU was signed during the visit of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to the Latin American country last month, and among other things envisages joint development of lithium resources in Bolivia and the promotion of joint ventures (JVs) in manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries in India and Bolivia.
Marking its commitment to develop closer bilateral relations with Bolivia, India has extended a $100-million line of credit to the former for development of projects of its choice.
The approval of the pact between the two countries is significant to the extent that it will offer sovereign backing to the consortium of Indian mineral companies looking to acquire a footprint in Latin American countries like Chile, Argentina and Bolivia to acquire strategic interest in critical electric vehicle battery mineral inputs.
As reported earlier by Mining Weekly Online, Khanij Bidesh India was seeking to conclude an agreement with Bolivian government-owned Yacimientos del Litio Bolivianos for setting up the battery plant linked to the Indian company’s plans to acquire lithium assets in Bolivia.
The government-to-government agreement will put such proposed JVs between State-run companies of the respective governments on a firmer footing, government officials here say.
Kabil is a JV of National Aluminium Company, Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration Corporation, specifically floated earlier this year to acquire strategic mineral assets overseas.
The new pact between the two countries is also being seen as a stepping stone for India to set up an Embassy in Sucre, a sticking point in existing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
According to an official in India’s External Affairs Ministry, “as far as establishing an Indian embassy in Bolivia is concerned it is something that is very much on the agenda and we will take it up”.
Bolivian diplomats during recent visits to India since early this year have pushed for greater bilateral trade and development of mineral assets and have officially lamented India’s lack of formal diplomatic channels in the Latin American country, particularly at a time when countries like Germany and China have set up embassies in that country and are rapidly spreading their investment commitment.
“India does not even have an embassy in Bolivia. China has an embassy. Who is at an advantage? Of course a country that has an embassy,” a Bolivian diplomat stated after meetings with his Indian counterparts, early this year.
“Perhaps, India does not have the financial clout that China has but it does have an upcoming market. If you share a piece of this with the Latin American countries it will give enough political clout,” he added.