Separated by thousands of kilometers, both India and Costa Rica enjoy extremely close relations even though there are tremendous possibilities for improvement.
While the differences between both the states are quite vast, the rationality of thought and the eagerness to engage with one another in terms of trade and commerce resulted in improvement of relationship.
While India boasts of the world’s third-largest military, a significantly growing economy, and is emerging as a global leader, Costa Rica on the other hand is the only Latin American state to be devoid of a standing army, it rather has one of the highest development and environment parameters and focusses more on sustainable development.
India, on the other hand, is an economic behemoth, with rapid development in agriculture, science, technology, and entrepreneurship. Indeed, as one of the largest economies in the world, India is the country to look up to.
Whereas Costa Rica doesn’t have much political dispute with its neighbors and thrives on peace and tranquillity it devotes precious economic weightage to human development. India on the other hand is besotted with troublesome neighbors such as Pakistan and the PRC and also has to be on the lookout for politically unstable regimes that may cause a spill-over into the Republic.
Indeed, if one may compare both the states it can be summed up in as a relationship under asymmetric conditions. Despite the asymmetric conditions, both the states may be able to break the traditional parameters for forming relationships and may usher into a better future.
The dynamics of economic relationship between India and Costa Rica
Asymmetry notwithstanding, trade relations between both the states have increased over the years.
The basis of the relationship between both the states is founded on the principles of cooperation, mutual understanding and support for one another in international forums.
Costa Rica’s support for India at the UN are is also counted for. Costa Rica’s abundant mineral and natural wealth in addition to its political and social stability are attractive factors for investment. Not to mention its vital ecological tourism and biodiversity conservation, from which India can learn.
India on the other hand owing to its area, innovation and rapid development in science, technology and with the perfect investment mind-set creates a lucrative partner for trade and commerce.
Costa Rica also was interested in a Preferential Trade Agreement with India, pertaining to its expertise in pharmaceuticals, software, and industries. Therefore, as one may observe both the states have their own abilities and potential which may aid in mutual cooperation.
Indian exports to Cost Rica were evaluated at the U.S. $ 131.4 million in 2019 of which vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, medical devices, and machinery topped the list. Cost Rican exports on the other hand were evaluated at U.S. $ 42.3 million of which wood, articles made of wood, wood pulp, grains and oilseeds, agricultural products, and fruits were the most exported materials.
With the current bilateral trade being poised at U.S. $ 147 million, and growing at a rate of 14.7 percent during the last decade, tremendous scope awaits both the nations to touch the billion-dollar mark.
Costa Rica’s strategic location and its emphasis on the protection of biodiversity and use of environment friendly technology could be a boost for India, and on the other hand it may also be the gateway to other Central American states and Mexico.
The breakthrough came with the visit of Vice-President of India who urged greater cooperation between both the states in March 2019.
Stress was laid on India’s assistance in the development of the Costa Rican Information Technology industries, the export of cheap generic drugs from India, and also cooperation in terms of soft power. India’s role in assisting Costa Rica in terms of skill development can aid it on a greater scale.
Some areas of improvement may be in the tourism sector, while India is well known as a land of culture, religious diversity and in-depth history, Costa Rica is a pioneer in eco-tourism and its model is praiseworthy, this may actually be an area of cooperation between both the states. India may also be able to assist the ticos in terms of skill building, capacity building and training in the expertise of information technology which may gradually expand Costa Rican business and entrepreneurship.
While there are tremendous scope for improvement of economic ties, the distance between both the states is difficult to surmount, in addition to that logistic troubles, issues due to linguistic differences and bureaucratic hassles also need to be worked upon. India should also think out of the box and prevent from getting entangled in its own neighbourhood, looking for opportunities to expand its horizons.
Costa Rica can provide that perfect opportunity to India for its global ambitions with mutual benefits for both the Republics.
DR. ARNAB CHAKRABARTY
DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS