Portugal President Professor Anibal Cavaco Silva, a politically representative parliamentary delegation, and large business delegation visited India and signed 4 significant agreements. The visit coincided with the 32nd anniversary of resumption of bilateral relations in 1975. Following the Indian independence in 1947, India and Portugal had a strained relationship over Goa which was still held by Lisbon as its colony. Failing to evict them from Panaji, the Indian Army launched a flush out operation to take over Goa in a very short time and the remnant Portuguese troops charged to protect Goa hurriedly leaving in ships leaving behind all possessions.
The four agreements signed during Silva’s visit included an extradition treaty, cultural cooperation for 2007-2009, education (to include language, science, technology, and higher education), and sports (to include education, science, culture, youth, and mass media). In addition, a four member politically representative Portuguese Parliamentary delegation met with Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunshi to exchange thoughts on respective democracies and agreed to establish a Friendship Group.
Addressing a joint session of Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Silva called on businesses to “strategic partnerships with a futuristic mindset.” Specifically, he wanted increased interactions in “sectors such as IT, robotics, communications, biotechnology, tourism and banking services, engineering, moulds and construction.” Bemoaning that Indo-Portugal relation was below par, to point of being almost negligible, Silva stressed the “need” to “mobilize the will of our political, economic, cultural, and scientific communities.” He wanted increased flow of “information and communication between the two countries” and which is further “strengthened” by “politicians” who “must contribute by creating suitable conditions for business to materialize.” India wants focus on IT, biotechnology, agribusiness & food processing, tourism, textiles, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals while also facilitating easier movement of business people, professionals, and tourists. Portugal has offered to use its privileged position with former colonies in South America and Africa to be a bridge for Indian businesses to reach markets with 500 million.
Despite such lavishing praise, Silva did not comment or support the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal saying that his administration needs more time to study the deal. However, Portugal was one the first few nations to support India's bid to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council citing its “leadership role as the world's largest democracy, for peace and stability” in the world. Appreciating the “remarkable economic growth” of India and China, Silva said that ultimately it is India that has the right “conditions for sustainable growth.” He says that this is because “it is a democracy,” “the quality of its human resources are remarkably good,” and “it is an open society.”
India needs to seize the opportunity of strong support and push for growth in bilateral relations from Portugal , which will head the EU in the second half of 2007, to get it closer to Europe . In an evolving multi-polar world comprising of the US, EU, China, Africa, South America, ASEAN, and Far East, India needs to develop strong ties with many entities. While the Indo-US civilian nuclear program and progressive defense alliance with the US has been growing over the past few years, the growth of relations with EU has not kept pace. Portugal provides an opportunity to develop this important relationship.