MoS External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi also interacted with the Indian community in these countries

Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi's recent visit to Panama, Honduras and Chile has provided fresh momentum to India’s relations with these countries in central and south America.

MoS Lekhi visited these countries from April 28-May 5.

Closer cooperation with Panama

During her visit to Panama from April 28- May 1, she met Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama Erika Mouynes and held bilateral discussions during which Minister of Government of Panama Janaina Tewaney was also present, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Sunday.

Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in trade and investment, health and pharma, Ayush, IT, space and culture.

According to the MEA, an agreement on Gainful Employment for dependents of officials of diplomatic mission/post was signed between India and Panama. The two sides also agreed to explore greater cooperation through India-SICA framework and in the multilateral fora.

At a meeting with Minister of Culture Giselle Gonzalez Villarue, MoS Lekhi signed an Agreement on Cultural Exchange Programme for 2021-24.

She also visited the Panama Canal along with Minister for Canal Administration Aristides Royo. She also visited Colon Free Trade Zone, the largest FTZ in Americas, and was briefed on the FTZ and possible areas for cooperation with India. She met with Panama based Indian entrepreneurs and visited their showrooms in the FTZ.

MoS Lekhi led the curtain raiser for International Day of Yoga 2022 at the iconic Cinta Costera. Minister of Culture of Panama and two Vice Ministers also participated at the event.

She visited a Hindu temple, participated in a traditional Garba and planted an Ashoka tree. She also attended a cultural program organised in the framework of AKAM celebrations showcasing both traditional Panamanian and Indian dances, the MEA said.

She interacted with members of the Indian community, the largest in Latin America, numbering 15,000.

Productive visit to Honduras

Providing information on MoS Lekhi's visit to Honduras from May 1-3, the MEA said she called on President Iris Xiomara Castro Sarmiento. She also met Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Honduras Antonio Garcia and discussed various bilateral, regional and international issues.

MoS Lekhi along with Minister of Agriculture Laura Suazo laid the foundation stone for the USD 26.5 million Jamastran Valley Irrigation project, funded by Government of India through a Line of Credit. The project is estimated to irrigate 3,060 hectares of land and benefit about 1200 farmers, the MEA added.

As a part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, MoS Lekhi addressed more than 300 students, faculties and academicians at the largest private University of Honduras (UNITEC) on "75 years of India’s growth story”. She also interacted with the Rectors and Vice Rectors from 21 Universities in the country to explore cooperation possibilities under India’s New Education Policy 2020.

During the visit, she attended a curtain raiser event for IDY 2022 at the National University of Honduras and participated in the tree plantation drive.

She visited the Centre of Excellence in Education in Information Technology (CEEIT), set up by India in 2008 where more than 26,000 students have been trained so far, the MEA said. The Centre was upgraded in 2016 with Indian assistance. MoS Lekhi also interacted with the small but vibrant Indian community in San Pedro de Sula.

Detailed review of India-Chile bilateral ties

In Chile, MoS Lekhi met Chilean Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola Noguera with whom she had detailed discussions on bilateral relations.

According to the MEA, both sides agreed to speed up their respective internal processes to facilitate early conclusion of bilateral agreements for cooperation in pharma, space, renewable energy and for empowerment of persons with disabilities. They also agreed to work closely in the Pacific Alliance and the multilateral fora, given their common values and principles.

During her meeting with Chilean Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage Julieta Brodsky Hernandez, the two sides agreed to cooperate in organising cultural events including screening of films in each other’s countries. MoS Lekhi met with Speaker of Chilean Chamber of Deputies Raul Soto and the President of India- Chile parliamentary friendship group Ciccardini. She also had a glimpse of a session of the Chilean Parliament, the MEA added.

MoS Lekhi met with Chilean Federation of Industries (SOFOFA) and discussed the growing bilateral cooperation in trade & investments, opportunities for Chilean companies & advantages of doing business with India.

She interacted with the Indian community in Chile and inaugurated a Khadi and Ayurveda exhibition and planted a tree as part of India @75 AKAM celebrations. She also participated at a curtain raiser event for IDY 2022 in Chile, the MEA said.