Pharmaceuticals is among the top exports from India to El Salvador, where local population has almost similar disease profile as Indians and has made a huge impact in making healthcare more affordable in his country, says Ariel Andrade Galindo, El Salvador’s Ambassador to India, in conversation with Vivek Ratnakar of Elets News Network (ENN).
The relationship between India and El Salvador is much deeper than what meets the eye, says Ariel Andrade Galindo, El Salvador’s Ambassador to India. “In fact, India played a crucial role in ensuring our freedom from colonial Spain. Indigo was the main agricultural produce of El Salvador during the colonial period but the rise of India as the world’s largest producer of indigo made production of indigo economically unfeasible as we could not produce enough indigo to pay taxes to the colonial masters that gave a push to our Independence movement.”
The Ambassador, who arrived in India this summer to join the Embassy of El Salvador in New Delhi, remembers one more connect with India from his childhood days. He remembers an Indian elephant, named Manjula, which was the main attraction at the Parque Zoologico Nacional de San Salvador—the national zoo in San Salvador—where he would often go as a child. The elephant was purchased by El Salvador in 1955. Reports suggest that upon the death of Manjula in January 2011, her body was kept for night for velacion, a benediction ceremony in El Salvador in which friends and relatives gather around the deceased and sing. She became the first animal to receive the honour of her own velacion.
Now a statue stands in her memory next to the zoo. This story bears the testimony of the impact soft power can have in opening a vast number of possibilities in warming up bilateral ties with countries half way across the world–making distances inconsequential. The Ambassador’s eyes sparkle with hope and excitement when he talks about exploring new possibilities to take India-El Salvador relations to a new height. The three major areas where he looks forward to garner support from India are power, healthcare and education sectors. To put things in perspective, he says: “There is a huge cost difference between common drugs produced in India and those that are available in El Salvador. Pharmaceuticals is among the top exports from India to El Salvador, where local population has almost similar disease profile as Indians.
“The medicines imported from India have brought down the healthcare costs considerably in El Salvador. But we are now looking to further reduce the cost to make medicines more affordable in our country.” Ambassador Galindo, who recently joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA), an alliance of 121 solar resource-rich countries lying fully or partially between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. ISA was jointly launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then President of France, François Hollande, on November 30, 2015 in Paris, on the side-lines of the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The first assembly of ISA was organised in October this year at India Expo and Mart in Greater Noida. Besides scouting for Indian companies to invest in El Salvador’s power sector, especially solar, one area that has really impressed Galindo is India’s progress in energy efficient electric appliances. “India-made LED bulbs have higher lumens while costing far less than other bulbs,” says the Ambassador, who has been visiting cities like Bengaluru and Kolkata to find the right partner to set up a manufacturing base in El Salvador.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, there were 1.1 million El Salvadorians residing in the United States in 2008. This means that about one of every five Salvadorans resides in the US. “Most of them head to the US for education and jobs which gives a unique advantage to El Salvador in terms of availability of skilled manpower, provided there are enough opportunities available back home.” Back in 2008, India and El Salvador signed an MoU on setting up an IT training centre in San Salvador. Accordingly, the IT Centre was established through NIIT and has now been handed over to Salvadoran authorities in June 2011. In 2013, an Indian delegation from the Department of Electronics and IT visited El Salvador and took part in an IT workshop organised by Agency for Science & Technology of Ministry of Education of El Salvador.
They identified three broad areas of cooperation including capacity building, training of trainers, and upgradation of Government of India-established IT centre at ITCA. Ambassador Galindo is keenly looking for IT companies from India who can set up base in his country and help El Salvador develop as a major IT hub in that part of the world. The man power can be drawn from the huge number of expatriates. According to him, there are a number of advantages for investing in El Salvador. “El Salvador has a number of free trade agreements (FTAs) with a number of countries in Americas. Developing a base in El Salvador can give Indian companies access to a huge market,” he says. The trade between India-El Salvador has grown many folds since 2010.
However, the balance of trade is tilted in favour of India. Textiles is the main exporting commodity of this tiny Central American country with a population of around 6.4 million squeezed in a 21,041 sq km area, making it one of the densest populated countries in Americas. With efforts being made by Ambassador Galindo and his predecessors, no distance seems to be far enough to bring India and El Salvador close enough to transform their ties and become partners in growth and ensure prosperity for their people.