Demonstrators carrying banners and placards attend a protest march against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and a new citizenship law, in Kolkata, India, December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

The amended citizenship law and the situation in Kashmir are internal issues of India and the country with its dynamic democracy will find solutions to these “challenges”, Brazilian envoy Andre Aranha Correa do Lago said on Thursday.

The envoy told news agency PTI in an interview that his country was following developments on the two issues “with great interest”.

His comments on the two issues comes a day ahead of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s maiden visit to India after he assumed power in January last year following a sweeping electoral victory.

Lago said over 15 agreements will be signed during the Brazilian president’s visit, including one on the investment protection and facilitation treaty.

“These (Citizenship (Amendment) Act and Kashmir situation) are two internal issues of India that obviously we are following with great interest. Naturally, in the conversations probably the Indian government will bring elements about this but we see this very clearly as internal questions of India,” he said.

“India being such a dynamic democracy with such fantastic institutions and civil society, we know that with this a very open society, you will discuss and you (will) go ahead with solutions for these challenges,” the Brazilian envoy said.

He made the remarks when asked if the CAA and the Kashmir issue could be discussed during talks. His remarks comes days after envoys of 15 countries, including the US, visited the Kashmir valley where they interacted with select political representatives, civil society members as well as military top brass.

Brazilian envoy Lago was also scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir, however, he had backed out because of his preoccupation here.

India has faced criticism over its amended citizenship law, including from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad. The CAA seeks to grant citizenship to persecuted non-Muslims from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Brazilian President Bolsonaro will on Friday begin a four-day visit to India, primarily as the chief guest on Republic Day and also to explore ways to boost trade ties at a time both the large economies are hit by slowdowns.

Highlighting that senior ministers, representatives of the private sector and 80 businessmen will be coming with the Brazilian president, Lago said the visit will see a “true redesigning of the relationship” between India and Brazil.

On whether the slowdown of the Indian economy was a matter of concern, the Brazilian envoy said it was not as India will probably grow at above five per cent.

“We are struggling to grow at 2 per cent. We are the country that has been facing more difficult times. We had two years of recession and two years of very low growth, but we have a very good perspective of growing above 2 per cent this year,” Lago asserted.

“So, it is not a question of concern, it has to be interpreted as an opportunity because India wants to grow obviously and we believe… With many of these discussions many opportunities and foreign investment, it will be good for the growth of the two countries,” he said.

President Bolsonaro will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind separately on Saturday.

Asked about the agenda for the talks, the Brazilian envoy said it will be wide-ranging and an action plan for the strategic partnership will be launched during the visit.

“Brazil and India have a strategic partnership since 2006, but we have decided to revaluate (our ties) and we have seen many new areas in which we could deepen the relationship,” Lago said.

He said the main focus of the talks between the leaders of the two countries will be on cooperation in investment and trade.

The Brazilian envoy said cooperation in biofuels and issues related to the defence industry are also going to figure high on the agenda for the two countries.

“We are going to have the first meeting of our businesses in the defence industry on both sides,” he said.

On a trip like this, there are many dimensions like symbolic, political and economic, the envoy said.

“The symbolic dimension is the honour to be invited for the Republic Day. The political dimension is that there will be in-depth discussions between the two governments during the state visit and the economic dimension will be the business meeting on Monday,” he said.

The Brazilian president will witness the Republic Day parade on January 26 as the chief guest. On January 27, Bolsonaro will address a group of Indian and Brazilian business leaders at the India-Brazil Business Forum, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.
India-Brazil ties have been on an upswing in the last few years.

The volume of bilateral trade was USD 8.2 billion in 2018-19. This included USD 3.8 billion worth of Indian exports to Brazil and USD 4.4 million as imports by India. Both the governments feel there is huge potential to enhance the bilateral trade further.

Indian investments in Brazil were around USD 6 billion and Brazilian investments in India are estimated at USD 1 billion in 2018.

Brazilian investments in India are mainly in the automobile, IT, mining, energy and biofuels sectors. India has invested in Brazil’s IT, pharmaceutical, energy, agri-business, mining and engineering sectors.

The two countries signed an agreement in 2003 for defence cooperation. It was ratified by Brazil in 2006. The agreement provides for cooperation in defence related matters, especially in the field of research and development, acquisition and logistic support.

Both the countries are also strong contenders for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.      Prime Minister Modi met Bolsonaro on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka in June last year during which a raft of issues of bilateral importance were discussed.