As Vice-President Hamid Ansari sets out on an official visit to Peru and Cuba, India hopes to convert its excellent political relations with South America into enduring economic partnerships.

Mr. Ansari noted India’s long association with Cuba on the Non-Aligned Movement and the Third World fronts, expressed surprise that there were so few high-level bilateral visits. “The two countries are far away, but important,” he told accompanying Indian journalists on Friday. “We are living in a world that is contracting.” Every country, he added, had the potential to be a partner in cooperation.

India could cooperate with Cuba in niche areas such as biotechnology, and Peru could be an important source of minerals. “As a major economy, we will look at all corners of the world.”

Other countries in South America such as Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela were huge economies, and there was need for increased engagement. India’s political, economic and cultural relations with these countries were not contradictory, but mutually supportive.

The Vice-President will be in Peru for three days from October 26. In Cuba, he will inaugurate the Cultural Festival of India and visit the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

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