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An Overview of Brazil’s Foreign Policy with India

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Pankhury Harbansh



Brazil is seen as a portentous economic and political power in the region of Latin America. In addition, Brazil also is a key player on the world stage given its role in BRICS and BASIC.  Brazil’s emergence in the international arena as a unique and robust actor is a direct outcome of consistent diplomacy solid in its principles. The Foreign Policy of Brazil is shaped in such a way that it manifests its role as a regional power as well a potential world power.  The four principles which drive the Foreign Policy of Brazil are: a) Protecting its National Interest b) National Security c) Ideological Goals d) and Economic Prosperity.

Professor Celso Lafer Daedalus in his paper “Brazilian International Identity and Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future” has described that Brazil is very strong about its national identity and the elements which influence this perception of Brazil are: a) Geography b) the relations with its neighbours c) use of different language (Portuguese) d) remoteness e) challenges it faces towards its economic development and f) differentiation of its views from other countries.

The classical concept of the diplomacy in the Brazilian context is to make best politics out of its Geography. Rio Branco (1902-1912) was the Brazilian Minister of External Affairs and is also considered as the Father of Brazilian Diplomacy. He established the “Itamaraty” and inspired a particular style of Foreign Policy by emphasising on the “de-dramatisation of the Foreign Policy.”[1]


Size of Brazil: Brazil is the largest country in both South and Latin America. It is the 5th largest country in the world and 6th most populated country. As of 2019, Brazil stands out as the world’s 9th largest economy. It is also the largest economy in Latin America. George Frost Kennan, an American diplomat, in 1993 designated Brazil as a “monster country”. This designation takes into account not only geographic and demographic data, but also economic and political data and the magnitude of the problems and challenges encountered by Brazil.[2]

Government: Brazil became independent (very peacefully) in 1822. From 1802-1821, Brazil was a colony, when the Portuguese court moved to Brazil.  King John left his son Pedro in Brazil. Simultaneously, the Spanish American Independent Movement was also coming into existence.

From 1822-1889, Brazil was a constitutional monarchy. A military coup in 1889 established the First Brazilian Republic. Brazil’s International identity in the 19th Century was of an Empire against the republics despite its very own political instability which resulted from the War of Triple Alliance. From early 20th Century Brazil started feeling some of the commonalities with the rest of the Latin America, thanks to the United States.

People: Jose Vascancelos, a Mexican writer, in his book “The Cosmic Race” defined the people of Brazil of a different race and separated from the world. The Brazilian people have been referred as a new alloy or in simple words, “a new race”. However, often times, the race and ethnicity in Brazil are also characterised as being “confusing” due to its various representations of coloured people. People in Brazil are represented by whites/yellows/browns/black/red Indians etc. These people belonged to the Portuguese culture, African & European migrants, Non-European migrants like Japanese and Arabs. The indigenous population in Brazil is represented by .6%. [3]

Economic Dimension: The Economic Dimension of Brazil is that of “third world” countries. However, even in third world, Brazil has always considered itself radically distinctive whereas some claim that Brazil and India are long lost twins as both countries have many common challenges, shared BRICS and IBSA identity and analogous goal of being the permanent members at the United Nations through G-4.

In 1961, at the United Nations, Brazil called itself an “Anti-Racist” and “Anti-Colonialist country”. The very same belief is also expressed by many third world countries which were colonised by the hands of their colonial masters such as Dutch, Portuguese, British etc.

In 1963, Araujo Castro, a prominent Brazilian Ambassador, presented a speech in the General Assembly of the United Nations that brought development to the attention of all member States. The 3D’s Speech was intended to draw the attentions of the world to matters of disarmament, decolonization and development.[4


The Neighbour aspect is very consequential to Brazil. The goal of Brazilian Foreign Policy is to have brotherhood amongst the South American countries. Brazil accentuates on cooperation of borders rather than separation. Brazil also castigated the notion of countries not being “legally” equal.

Some of the regional organisations comprising of Brazil with other South American countries are: LAFTA – Latin American Free Trade Association (1960; ALADI – Latin American Integration Association (1980)), MERCOSUR (1991), SACN – South American Community of Nations (2004), UNASUR – Union of South American Nations (2008).

Also, in 1979, an Agreement took place between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay on hydroelectricity. Brazil is also compatible with its neighbours. After globalisation, Brazil has also been dealing with transnational issues such as drugs, migrations and crimes etc.

International Identity: Brazil’s International Identity is based on Autonomy, Nationalism and its Middle Power status.

When it comes to Autonomy, the biggest concern for Brazil has been the lopsided and asymmetrical relations along with the United States. Brazil had two objectives with the United States – a) To keep the European feet out of the South American region and b) to keep its neighbours in check.

In case of Nationalism, Brazil believes in Brazilian solutions to Brazilian problems while its Middle Power status demonstrates the attributes of not being weak, not being subjected to violence, search for balanced ground (in other words a balancer or negotiator between developed and developing countries).


Brazil’s role in international relations has altered somewhat in recent years. Under Former President Luiz ‘Lula’ da Silva, presidential diplomacy has dominated an active foreign policy aimed at expanding the country’s presence in global economic negotiations, multilateral institutions and regional affairs. This has involved deepening ties with both industrialised economies and the emergent South. Such a multi-polar approach is evident in Brazil’s renewed relations with the United States (US) and Europe — arguably on a more equal footing than in the past — along with closer ties to China, India, Russia and South Africa.[5]


President Jair Bolsonaro, was in New Delhi from 24 – 27 January 2020. He was invited by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as the chief guest at the 71st Republic Day celebrations

On the occasion of his visit, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and other Indian apex associations, in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs of India and the Government of Brazil, organized an exclusive India – Brazil Business Forum on 27th January 2020. From the Indian side, the presence of Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways was witnessed at the Forum.

Delivering the special address, Shri Piyush Goyal christened the visit of Mr Bolsonaro as one of the most productive and high profile visits ever by a Brazilian President to India.  Making a strong pitch for straightening India – Brazil economic relationship, he said, “Backed by business friendly environment, rule of law and a vibrant society, India and Brazil are at the cusp of a very bright future.”

The Business Forum included four Panels which focused on the following:

  • Brazilian Economy – The Panel showcased presentation by Mr Marcos Troyjo, Special Secretary of Foreign Trade and International Affairs off Brazil on “New Perspectives of the Brazilian Economy and Business Environment” and Mr Deepak Bagla, Managing Director & CEO, Invest India on “Economic Scenario and Investment Opportunities for Brazil


  • Energy – The Panel on Energy discussed topics such as “Bioenergy: How to Build a Clean Energy Matrix” which was addressed by Mr Gustavo Motta, Director, Substitute, of the Department of Biofuels, Ministry of Mines and Energy; Mr Evandro Gussi, President of UNICA; Mr. Vivek Pittie, President of ISMA; Dr Sangita Kasture, Scientist-F, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India; Pratik Agarwal, Group CEO, Sterlite Power Transmission Limited and Mr Shishir Joshipura, CEO & MD, Praj Industries.

This was also followed by discussion on “Oil & Gas” which was addressed by Mr Eduardo Eugenio Gouvea Vieira, President of the National Organization of the Oil Industry (ONIP) and President of the Federation of Industries of Rio de Janeiro; Dr SSV Ramakumar, Director (R&D), Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Mr Srinivas Tuttagunta, Chief Operating Officer (Supply & Trading), Reliance Industries Limited.

  • Brazil-India Defense Industry Dialogue – The Panel aimed at exploring synergies for Defense collaboration between the two countries. It involved discussion on strategic projects of the Brazilian Ministry of Defense. It also provided information on “Make in India”, an initiative by the Government of India and and an overview of Defense Industry in Brazil for the Indian audience.
  • Innovation -The Panel was addressed by Mr Paulo Alvim, Secretary of Innovation of the Ministry of S&TI of Brazil.

These sessions were attended by Group of Ministers from Brazil besides several industry stalwarts from both the countries, academicians, think tank experts amongst many others.

It is interesting to note that both India and Brazil have also sought to breathe new life into the existing bilateral economic relationship by collaborating on sectors such as:

  • Oil and gas – While India’s crude imports are increasing rapidly, Brazil is blessed with huge reserves, large production capacity and surplus for exports. Investment opportunities must be explored this this area
  • Infrastructure/construction – Brazil needs investment in infrastructure to achieve connectivity. The President mentioned that he sees many benefit in the PPP model that has seen much success in India.
  • Energy – Biofuels is an interesting area for India to work with Brazil. Solar and other forms of renewable energies also have immense potential for cooperation.

India’s has a preferential trade agreement with the MERCOSUR block of countries which is limited to just 450 products. Even though the two sides have raised their ambitions to provide preferential access to about 3,000 items, the possibility of a bilateral preferential trade agreement between India and Brazil should certainly be studied and explored.

[1] Ideas, Beliefs, Strategic Culture, and Foreign Policy: Understanding Brazil’s Geopolitical Thought, Marcos Rosas Degaut Pontes

[2] Brazilian International Identity and Foreign Policy: Past, Present and Future, Celso Lafer Daedalus

[3] IBGE. “IBGE – sala de imprensa – notícias

[4] Development in Brazilian Foreign Policy, Mariana Kalil

[5] An Overview of Brazilian Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, Monica Hirst