This summer Aditya Banerjee, 17 and a senior at Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, U.S., traveled to Lima, Peru, to visit the Indian Embassy. The embassy facilitates communications and relations between the government of India and Peru, a country in western South America. Embassies, located in many countries worldwide, represent foreign governments in a country. Often based in the capital city, they have been described as “the nerve center” for a country’s diplomatic affairs within the borders of another nation. Diplomacy, simply put, is conducting negotiations between nations.
Drawn to such high school courses as business law, business finance, macroeconomics and international relations, Banerjee wanted to visit a business or a state office to experience first-hand what actually happens in those places. As an Overseas Citizen of India living in the U.S. who is familiar with Delhi and Kolkata, he thought of shadowing some government officials and businesspeople in India. Then, he remembered reading that Peru, like India, is an emerging economy. He had visited Peru on vacation and welcomed the opportunity to return. Soon after, the Indian Embassy there approved his visit. “I tried to see how I could explore my interests in business and international relations by looking at the connections between these two countries,” says Banerjee.
Here are his top four takeaways.
- The importance of trade. “The Indian Embassy shares its offices between Peru and Bolivia, with the Indian ambassador visiting Bolivia as needed,” notes Banerjee. “I learned that the decision to station the Indian Embassy in Peru, rather than Bolivia was based on the more intensive trade ties of India with Peru, rather than Bolivia. This was a quick and important lesson for me on how economics shape political priorities, as well. I came away with an understanding that it is first trade (the sharing of goods) that connects regions, and then eventually through that connection social and cultural ideas are shared. History is evidence of this. Trade along the Silk Route (Trans-Asia trade route where at one point silk from China was brought to Turkey and sold to Europeans) paved the way for political expansion and the spread of religions and cultural practices. The India-Peru economic connections are strengthened and supported in the Indian Embassy, and the cultural ties were evident when the Peruvian staff wanted to discuss Bollywood films with me!
- Economic ties of emerging economies. Ambassadors take the lead role within embassies. They serve as the personal representatives of the heads of their governments. “I learned a lot more about the economic ties of India and Peru during my question-and-answer session with Arup Kumar Saha, commercial representative and head of chancery at the embassy,” says Banerjee. “The Indian ambassador had just been transitioned to a new country, so I met with the deputy. Although I was nervous and hesitant while talking, he listened carefully and made me feel comfortable, even stopping for me to take notes. I learned that India is a major importer of Peruvian minerals (gold, silver, copper, phosphates for fertilizers) and also grapes. It exports automobiles (made by Mahindra and Bajaj) like tractors, three wheelers and motorbikes, as well as textiles. Currently, Peru is exporting more to India than importing. Tata Consultancy Services, an Indian IT firm, has a presence in Peru. Later, when I Googled Tata, Mahindra and Bajaj, I discovered that they are all family-run businesses. Until that point, I had a different notion of a family-run business, imagining them to be operating on a small scale. I was familiar with Tata, but now I saw how diversified it is and realized its incredible international reach.”
- Macro and Micro Priorities. The new president of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, is known to be pro-business, and Peru is said to have ambitious economic plans beyond its borders. “Due to a trade agreement with Delhi, India, trade between India and Peru is expected to rise exponentially, with India investing in the IT and hospitality sectors,” says Banerjee. “The first visit of a Peruvian president to India should take place by the end of this year, underscoring the growing ties between these two countries. While the embassy was engaged in these large-scale macro-level agreements, it was also involved in micro-level economic initiatives for Indians living in Peru. For instance, the embassy discovered that Indians living in Peru face challenges getting Indian spices and other ethnic foods. At certain intervals, the embassy buys items from the U.S. and Canada based on the grocery lists it receives from Indians in Peru and then makes those products available in Peru. This was another example of how trade and commerce are fundamental to the embassy’s services.”
- A little salsa dancing. “My experience at the Indian Embassy gave me insights into the ways in which the economy is inextricably linked to international relations, and how trade partnerships lead to cultural exchange. What’s more, cultural awareness is fundamental to effective international relations. During our interview, Mr. Saha mentioned how besides learning Spanish, he also took up salsa dancing to develop a stronger understanding of the Peruvian culture. Also, because Peru is known for its great foods, which is marketed very well, he visited local restaurants to become familiar with local flavors and practices. An ambassador’s job isn’t all trade and cross-country communications, it’s also a strong appreciation for cultural traditions and the people who experience and create them.”
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What are some of the key connections between India and Peru?
Why are embassies like the Indian Embassy in Peru important? Some question whether or not we even need embassies in this digital age. Where do you fall on that argument? Use the “Related Links” to help explore the topic. Share your insights in the Comment section of this article.
Aditya Banerjee traveled to the Indian Embassy in Peru because he felt a connection to both countries. Using the “Related Links” section, explore embassies around the world and discuss where you would want to visit and why. What economic ties between these places interest you?