A high priority for External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is to forge closer bonds with South America and Latin America as they seem to have similar goals as India, which is looked upon by them as “some kind of a custodian of their aspirations.”

While the attempt to end the country’s isolation from the civil nuclear mainstream consumed a considerable amount of the Foreign Office’s time, energy and effort in the recent past, Mr. Krishna, in a conversation with The Hindu, felt it is time to focus on building more intimate ties with these countries and is committing to prioritising efforts in that direction.

Mr. Krishna pointed to a large number of countries outside the ambit of the G-8 group, which sought an audience with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and himself during last month’s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, as well at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at Yekaterinburg in Russia, to drive home his point.

However, very few of these bilaterals were reported because of the high profile given to the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers.

A student and observer of international politics for over four decades, Mr. Krishna feels that the perception of India sharing similar aspirations with countries from the two countries makes it imperative for the Foreign Office to develop closer bonds with them. “There is definitely complementarity in aspirations,” he added, while suggesting that this approach be adopted without minimising the importance attached to powers like the U.S., Russia, China, France, Japan and the U.K., or the near neighbours.

The Minister believes closer ties will also help India gain greater recognition on multilateral bodies such as the United Nations Security Council, because they would view New Delhi as mainly articulating their concerns and protecting common interests.

“Had I not gone to Australia, which I had to, I would have certainly visited a country in either Africa or Latin America,” he said.

Even before India began devoting most of its diplomatic energy on the civil nuclear energy, visits by the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister to these regions have been rare. There has hardly been any standalone visit by these two political executives and most trips to one or the other of these countries have been to attend multilateral meetings.

Even the Prime Minister’s last two visits to Africa in the past four years have been to attend such gatherings. His sojourn to Nigeria in 2007 actually took advantage of the India-Brazil-South Africa summit near Johannesburg.

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