01/26/2024, 14.29
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India in Argentina in search of lithium (to delink itself from China)

Despite recent discoveries of deposits in Kashmir, India is still dependent on minerals from China. Last week, New Delhi and Buenos Aires inked an agreement to explore and develop five lithium deposits in Argentina’s Catamarca province, a deal that could open the door to other forms of cooperation.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Last week India signed an agreement with Argentina for the exploration and development of five lithium deposits in the Argentinian province of Catamarca, a project that entails an investment of two billion rupees (US$ 24 million) over five years.

This is India’s second bilateral agreement for critical minerals after striking a partnership with Australia in 2022 in line with its goal of becoming an electric car production hub by 2070.

Although Argentina’s far-right President Javier Milei, who was elected in November 2023,  decided not to join the BRICS – the bloc of countries formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – due to the Chinese presence (during the election campaign Milei said that he would never do business with a communist government), Argentina will seek closer bilateral ties with the individual countries that make up the group to boost trade and investment and try to revive the Argentine economy.

The agreement to develop lithium deposits was signed by India's Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) – a joint venture set up for identifying, acquiring, developing, processing, and making commercial use of strategic minerals in overseas locations for supply in India – and Catamarca Minera Y Energética Sociedad Del Estado (CAMYEN), a state-owned mining and energy company.

This is "a very important milestone”, said Argentina’s Ambassador to India, Hugo Javier Gobbi.

“It's a big step in that ongoing process,” he added. The “production of lithium in Argentina would link both economies for a very long time because, you know, mining projects usually link economies for 20 years or 30 years. You don't make big investments only for a short period of time. [. . .]. And so that will enrich the bilateral relations in a very significant way.”

Argentina holds about a fifth of the world's lithium reserves (98 million tonnes), whose deposits are concentrated in what is called the "Lithium Triangle”, which includes Chile and Bolivia, two other South American countries with which India has engaged in talks over mining.

At present, despite recent discoveries of lithium deposits in Kashmir, India relies totally on imports, 95 per cent from China and Hong Kong, a situation India wants to change.

India's lithium imports in fiscal year 2023 amounted to roughly US$ 3 billion, a 58 per cent rise over fiscal year 2022, according to Ministry of Commerce and Industry data.

Relations between India and Argentina do not stop at mining. Ambassador Gobbi noted that India backs Buenos Aires over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas in Spanish), a self-governing British overseas territory claimed by Argentina.

He also spoke about the purchase of Indian-made Tejas light fighters, which had initially interested Argentina but did not materialise.

Still, “conversations have started and have developed in many other fields because we have developed cooperation in the helicopter [area] for example. In that area, Argentina has made a contract with India,” the ambassador explained.

Last year, the Indian government, which in recent years sought to actively promote Indian military exports, said six countries, including Argentina, were interested in buying the jets, but, despite pressure from Delhi, Buenos Aires opted for US F-16s.

Despite this setback, the door remains open for future collaboration between the two countries, both members of the Global South that India would like to lead.

“[W]e have advanced very much,” Ambassador Gobbi noted. “I hope this will continue and diversify and add many other areas of the defence cooperation agenda.

In fact, “we opened a Military Attaches office here that was of great help to developing the agenda. The perspectives between the two countries to continue developing the defence agenda are very, very good.”


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See also
Chinese companies scouring for strategic minerals in South America and Africa
14/02/2023 13:59
China, BRICS and Milei's Argentina
21/11/2023 18:49
China, Chile sign copper mining deal
White House to stop Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea
24/01/2017 15:55
Bolivia’s recognition of Palestine as an independent state sets off alarm bells in Israel


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