In a novel diplomatic step, India is moving in to strategically engage with a new geopolitical grouping: the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking countries) as Delhi wants to leverage the untapped potential and the historical connect.
The Lusophone world is spread in nine countries across four continents, and Portuguese is the most widely-spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere. Officials feel that from Vasco da Gama onwards, India’s Portuguese connection has not been diplomatically leveraged.
With this realisation, to further India’s engagement with the Lusophone world, India is hosting a four-day cultural extravaganza in Goa. The International Lusophone Festival kicked off on Saturday evening at the Raj Bhavan, in the presence of Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, and MoS Culture and External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi.
Portuguese is one of the official languages of the continental organisations: African Union, Organization of American States, European Union and of multiple regional organisations, as well as official language of UNESCO General Conference. More than 265-million speakers worldwide; most widely spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere; regarded as the language of the first globalisation in the modern era.
There is huge potential to expand and strengthen trade and economic collaboration between India and Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) countries, officials said.
Officials said that India’s engagement in the CPLP could be a substantial force multiplier for expanded cooperation in cutting-edge fields of technology, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and materials science for post-Covid recovery and resilience. “This offers significant opportunities for Indian start-ups and other innovation-focused private enterprises to access the CPLP home markets and offer their solutions, which could benefit the local populace,” the official said.
“There is ample scope for win-win partnerships — Portugal’s extraordinary experience in the development sector in Lusophone Africa; Brazil’s new capabilities there; and India’s willingness to become a collaborative player in the sector, offers great potential for triangular assistance and setting up collaborative projects and also scaling up bilateral development cooperation projects,” the official said.
The future of CPLP cooperation lies in strategic areas like the blue economy, renewable energy, defence, connectivity, mobility and trade, which are also focus areas for the Indian economy, the official said. In regard to cooperation with India, the official said that several areas can be considered as avenues for cooperation, including food security, infrastructure and energy (including bio-energy, solar and other renewable).
India already offers training to all CPLP member states, except Portugal, under the ITEC and IAFS frameworks. Providing technical expertise and capacity building assistance to CPLP countries will enhance people-to-people connect, the official said. India’s technological advancements in e-commerce, digital payment systems and e-governance could also be shared with CPLP countries for mutual benefit.
Officials cited Indian assistance to several countries, including CPLP, to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic through supplies of medicines, medical equipment, vaccines and other Covid-related support. India has offered ‘transfer of technology’ for manufacturing of its indigenously developed vaccine Covaxin in interested countries.
“India is offering its Covid vaccination platform CoWIN and Aarogya Setu as open source softwares for partner countries. CPLP alliance could also benefit from such capacities and other technological advancements in the fight against pandemic,” the official said.
The Ministry of External Affairs is organising the festival in partnership with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Goa government. The festival will include performances by visiting cultural troupes from the CPLP countries (approximately 70 artistes) at several venues in Goa. Also lined up are workshops on Lusophone music, besides a display of historical records, and exhibitions of Goan architecture, handicrafts and furniture. In addition, the Lusophone Food and Spirits Festival will also showcase the culinary links between India and the Lusophone world.
Round Table discussions themed on “India’s Outreach to the Global South – Exploring Convergence with CPLP” and “India-Lusophone Historical and Cultural Linkages: Retrospect and Prospects” will explore not only India’s existing and historical Lusophone connect, but also deliberate on the way forward for future engagement, said a statement by the MEA.
“Upon India’s initiative, this is the first such multi-country cultural event being held among these countries,” say ICCR officials. In May this year, the government had celebrated the World Portuguese Language Day in Delhi. This festival is part of the effort to further this engagement.
Goa has had historical linkages with the Lusophone world, nurtured through the presence of Portuguese cultural institutions like the Orient Foundation and the Camoes Institute which promote the Portuguese language and culture in India.
The celebration of the World Portuguese Language Day and the cultural festival were part of India’s commitment to the CPLP while joining as an associate observer last year. The cultural festival was conceptualised earlier this year. The roundtable conferences will see officials of the MEA as speakers, besides diplomats, academicians and language experts from the member nations.
Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking countries) economies are among the fastest-growing in the world, with Brazil, Angola, Portugal, Mozambique being some of them.
India’s trade with the Lusophone world has grown six-fold in the last decade. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) or Lusophone Commonwealth, was founded in 1996 in Lisbon, with Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and Sao Tome and Principe as members; while Timor Leste and Equatorial Guinea joined later.
These countries comprise approximately 300-million people across four continents (Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe). India joined CPLP as an associate observer only in July 2021.