New Delhi: Colombia Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez on Saturday invited Indian pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases. India and Colombia exchanged views on possible scientific cooperation in the biotechnology sector as the latter showed willingness for a tie-up in the areas of vaccines, biosimilars and medical devices.
Speaking to Smita Sharma of India Ahead, Ramirez said Colombia can take lessons from India in building up ecosystem for promotion of the pharma industry. She also expressed the Latin American nation’s interest in inviting investment from Indian company’s like the Tata group.
Ramirez is on a four-day visit to India for extensive engagements covering all aspects of bilateral relations, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said. Ramirez on Saturday met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and held wide-ranging discussions on the expanding partnership. The two leaders also witnessed the signing of agreements between India and Colombia today.
Speaking about the MoU on cooperation in space sector, she said, “The focus of the MoU is on use of outer space for peaceful purposes, exploration, a flexible and ambitious agenda in areas including surveillance, development, and satellite applications to the launch of space vehicles.”
A high-level delegation from Colombia led by Ramirez visited Department of Biotechnology and held a meeting with the Indian delegation led by Secretary, Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Renu Swarup. Calling health and biotechnology sectors major priority areas of shared interest, Ramirez said she looked forward to cooperation towards building a sustainable biotechnology ecosystem.
On the defence ties between India and Colombia, and opportunities in shipbuilding, Ramirez said, “So far there is nothing major between the two countries as far as defence cooperation is concerned, be it joint military exercises, exchange of best practices or training of officers.”
“There is one Indian company MKU Private Ltd which has been present in that country and has delivered body armour for homeland security, like bulletproof jackets.”
“There is an opportunity for India to work with the shipyard and build vessels for the navies of the region.” Marta Lucia Ramirez
The Colombian Vice President further said India can offer specialised training for officers in ‘basic and advanced mountain warfare courses’ and also cross deputation of instructors at respective training establishments.
“Colombia has one of the best ship building industries in the region. COTECMAR-Colombia is the best shipyard. There is an opportunity for India to work with the shipyard and build vessels for the navies of the region,” she went on to say.
Ramirez also pointed at the disruption to bilateral trade with India because of pandemic. On global approach to reopening borders post pandemic, she held the lockdown was important but countries need to reopen now. The economies need to be rebuild amid the pandemic, she said.
The Colombian leader also said the country was seeking closer cooperation with India on intelligence sharing, narcotics and drugs trafficking ops in IndoPacific.
On the issue of refugees from Afghanistan, Ramirez said, “Colombia can help resettle Afghan refugees, but in small numbers. The country is currently hosting 2 million Venezuelan refugees.”
She also voiced the need to strengthen democracies around the world and raised concerns about rights of women and children in Afghanistan, that has been captured by extremist group, Taliban. “Global community can use economic tools like sanctions to leverage with Taliban,” she said.
“If there are more women leaders, there will be less violence in the world.” Marta Lucia Ramirez
Ramirez also stressed on the role of United Nations (UN) and called for its expansion and reforms.
On the issue of women and leadership, Ramirez the first woman vice president of Colombia, said, “Women at the top must also empower other women. If there are more women leaders, there will be less violence in the world.”
India and Colombia celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations in 2019. Colombia is an important partner for India in Latin America and bilateral ties have been expanding, particularly in the economic and commercial spheres.
Both countries have identified various sectors like agriculture, defence and security, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology, sustainable energy, culture, education and sports, and the empowerment of women. Bilateral trade during 2020-21 was worth $2.27 billion, up from $1.85 billion in 2019-20 despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.