“If one compares it with other fast emerging economies, Peru looks more closer to India than any other nation of Latin America. Peru is Latin America not only because of its geographical location or its Spanish heritage but also the role it has been playing as a helping brother of neighboring nations.”
“Holding of Pan Am Games has brought Peru to limelight. It is not only Its fiscal health is better than most of the South American countries, it has the ability and nearly stable political system to sustain such global challenges where it can successfully showcase its potential. It has become the third South American nation after Brazil and Argentina to hold a major sporting event in the past three years.”
Peru is amazing. Blessed with abundance of natural resources, including precious metals and natural gas, it has long sprawling fields of fertile lands. Its rich and nourishing basket of fruits, food grains, chocolate and coffee satiates healthy nourishment requirements of not only rest of Americas but also the global market. Unlike neighboring South American nations reeling under rapidly deteriorating fiscal health – Argentina being the latest – Peru is a sound economic power. It is perhaps one of few South American nations that has maintained the strength of its currency.
If one compares it with other fast emerging economies, Peru looks more closer to India than any other nation of Latin America. Peru is Latin America not only because of its geographical location or its Spanish heritage but also the role it has been playing as a helping brother of neighboring nations.Of a total population of nearly 31 million, nearly nine million live in the capital city of Lima. And these figures include citizens of other Pan American nations who have moved out in search of jobs, health care and other basic civic amenities to Lima or Peru.
There are not many who speak English. A strong similarity with India is its status as a developing nation. Civic amenities are almost as good as in India. And Peruvians have special affinity for India for its rich history and cultural heritage. It may be the reason for the popularity of not only Indian cinema but also movements like Rama Krishna.
To accelerate its economic growth further, Peru needs infrastructure, machinery, manpower and technology. True to the adage “gold mine of natural resources”, Peru has abundance of gold, silver, other precious metals and natural gas. Going by the size and magnitude of the nation, it has tremendous potential for solar energy.
Holding of Pan Am Games has brought Peru to limelight. It is not only Its fiscal health is better than most of the South American countries, it has the ability and nearly stable political system to sustain such global challenges where it can successfully showcase its potential. It has become the third South American nation after Brazil and Argentina to hold a major sporting event in the past three years.
Brazil earned the distinction of becoming the first South American nation to hold summer Olympics in 2016. And Argentina held the Youth Olympic Games in 2018. Peru is now playing host to the world’s third largest sporting event, Pan Am Games.
More than 6000 athletes from 40-odd nations of North, South and Central America besides the Caribbean competed in what are being described as “most successful Pan Am Games”. The games went without a glitch.
And Peru set an example for the rest of the world. It decided to allot an apartment to each of its winners of gold, silver and bronze medals in the Games. Peru started the Games with a “double gold” by winning the grueling marathon event, both for men and women. In all there were more than 20 Peruvian athletes who got the apartments in the Games village allotted to them.
Peru was successful in showcasing its progress through opening and closing ceremony. The closing ceremony was specially designed to depict “Dance in Diversity”.
Three things about Peru surprises everyone most. Bars in most of the hotels here remain open for 24 hours. The capital city is also dotted with 24-hour Casinos. Other than three main recognized Casinos, there are 40 others operating in different parts of the city and attract not only expatriates but also affluent tourists and the local business leaders.
Speed breakers, too, are common. Every km you have a speed breaker. Roadside vendors selling eatables, daily use items are equally common. At major traffic intersections, you have young and old people swarming with eatables, soft drinks and other daily use products, exactly the way you find them in India.
Those who are into small trade and practices are from Venezuela or Colombia. There are nearly 2 million immigrants from other South American countries trying to settle down in Peru.
Holding of games gave Peru a great opportunity to develop infrastructure, especially roads, bridges, motorways. hotels, stadiums and convention centers. While the Games were in progress, lot of construction activity was going on in the streets, towns, cities and districts of the capital Lima. Interestingly, among the major engineering companies engaged in infrastructure development are from India.
Other than construction companies, Indian business houses holding expertise in mining, oil and natural gas exploration and solar energy have got a big market share. Besides, leaders of India auto industry, including Bajaj, Hero Honda, Hyundai and others too enjoy a big market share. Infosys, Mahendra Tech and other IT companies too have bagged big contracts in Peru.
“Gold and silver traders from India in general and Gujarat in particular frequent Peru for export of precious metals to various parts of the world. There are a couple of Indian restaurants, including Mantra Garden in Mira Flores, one of the affluent districts of Lima.”
Other parameter is gauge Indian dominance is the virtual monopoly of cinema business in Peru. One Punjabi Kapoor family of Delhi owns not only more than 200 cinema screens but also runs a chain of hotels in Lima and other parts of Peru. Now the family plans to take its cinema trade to neighboring Bolivia.
Of all Bollywood stars, Shah Rukh Khan is a big craze in Peru. Indian films as and when screened get huge public response.
Gold and silver traders from India in general and Gujarat in particular frequent Peru for export of precious metals to various parts of the world. There are a couple of Indian restaurants, including Mantra Garden in Mira Flores, one of the affluent districts of Lima.
Peru also encountered some of the problems facing the rest of the world. It witnessed a major terrorist attack in 1992 in which several people were killed. The attackers had planned to bomb off two major international banks in the area. Luckily, the bank towers escaped any damage.
Like any other developing economy, Peru is grappling with various problems, including provision of basic civic amenities. Solid waste and garbage disposal are the main problems. Garbage dumps are at street corners. The garbage is then carefully scanned for organic and inorganic waste, plastics, metals and paper as is being done by rag pickers, garbage collectors or junk or Kabarri merchants in India.
In the absence of public transport, private operators, with vehicles similar to Maruti or slightly bigger vans, take care of needs of commuters. The conductor of the vehicle hangs out making shouts to attract commuters for destinations his vehicle touches.
And in Lima you have localities, avenues, towns and major roads named after all American nations, cities and even provinces. While in Lima you can travel to Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and El Salvador in a van or a bus. Each local public carrier carries on its sides the names of localities or avenues it touches. You do not have to remember the route number to go to a particular destination.
Sun is a rarity. There is a common saying that there is a fold of clouds between Sun and Peru. Only lucky few see sunlight here. Most of the time weather remains overcast with chilly breeze blowing throughout the day. In summer months, temperature touches past 30 degrees Celsius while in winter the maximum is around 19 degrees Celsius.
India’s interest in Peru is significant. It is seventh largest trade partner from South America. Lots of Indian companies trading in precious metals, especially gold and silver, frequent Peru. Balance of trade lies in favor of Peru.
India and Peru hope to sign Free Trade Agreement any time though many have doubts about it. Of late, Indian Vice-President V. Naidu visited Peru last year.
Another common feature of India and Peru has been immigrant destination. While India continues to grapple with the problem of refugees or illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Peru has been a signatory to an agreement where anyone from the signatory seven nations can go to any member country with legal travel documents, including passport, to settle there. This has brought influx of Venezuelans and Columbians to Peru.
Though bilateral relations between India and Peru were established in early 60s, Peru has been supporter of not only for India’s seat in Security Council but also on Kashmir issue.
As of now there are about 500 Indians in Peru and nearly 200 Peruvians living permanently in India. Indians in Peru are into business, especially export and import of minerals, autos and auto parts.
There is a lot of potential for strengthening the bilateral trade further and a Free Trade Agreement may act as a catalyst. It also holds the potential for hardworking Punjabi youth looking for green pastures overseas.
(The author was recently in Lima for Pan Am Games. A longtime friend from my Ludhiana days, dating back to early eighties, Prabhjot very kindly acceded to my request to write his impression of Peru for the readers of The Indian Panorama. Thank you, Prabhjot)