What do you think about Indo-Ecuadorian relations and how do you think they have progressed over the last 20 years?
India and Ecuador have a lot in common. If a group of Ecuadorians and Indians sit on a table, there is very little difference between them. The values and thoughts of the people of both the countries are almost the same. For instance, people of both countries attach a lot of importance to their families. However, the potential of relationship between the two countries has not yet been fulfilled. India, in general, has not focussed its energy on Latin America. For instance, India has embassies in only 16 of the 44 Latin American countries. They must do what they are doing in Africa. There are a lot of sectors which the Indians can tap into in Latin America, especially in Ecuador.
What are the areas in Ecuador that India can look to explore and bolster ties between the two countries?
Three major areas that come to mind are pharmaceuticals, education, information technology and general trade. Ecuador has trade agreements with Europe and the US. India could use this to their leverage and make Ecuador as a platform for their trade with the European Union and the US.
Another sector is pharmaceuticals. India’s use of generic drugs is well-known across the world. For example, a drug used to treat prostrate cancer is sold at a price which is 10 times higher than in India. An agreement in this field can prove to be profitable for Indian pharmaceutical companies and also benefit the people of my country.
Education is an aspect that is often overlooked in bilateral relations as the ties between two countries are more often than not judged on the basis of the volume of trade between them. You will be surprised to know that learning English in my country is very difficult as it is very expensive. Only 5-10 per cent of the people in my country speak English. India, with its immense education talent pool, can make English more affordable for people in Ecuador.
What are the things that you have done or suggested to improve bilateral ties with India?
I have been consistently writing to my government over areas where I think relations can be improved with India. I do keep getting responses as well, which is a heartening sign. Later in February a 75-member delegation of professors and high ranking education officials will be visiting India to see how the education system works here. To improve cultural ties between the two countries, I have repeatedly asked the ICCR to facilitate an exchange programme and scholarships. India and Ecuador are both signatories of the Paris agreement.
Do you think there can be cooperation between the two countries to counter climate change?
Many people do not know that the Constitution of Ecuador has granted fundamental rights to nature. We are obviously looking at expertise from India to deal with a prominent problem like climate change. There were reports that fugitive self-styled godman Nithayananda had purchased an island from Ecuador to set up a country Kailaasa. He had also sought asylum which was rejected. Were the Indian authorities
informed when his request for asylum was received?
Firstly, even I as an Ecuadorian citizen, am not permitted by law to buy an island so there is no chance that Nithyananda had bought an island. Secondly, after the period of his legal stay in the country had ended, he was asked to leave. Yes, there was a request for asylum which was denied and Indian authorities were duly informed of his request.