Asuncion: Condemning the terrorist attack on CRPF jawans in Pulwama, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has said that India is capable of handling terrorism and that this has become evident after the country carried out air strikes at Balakot terror camp in Pakistan soon after.

Interacting with the Indian diaspora in Paraguay capital Asuncion, he said that India and Paraguay are on the path of rapid economic reforms and socio-economic development. India has become the fastest growing large economy in the world and now, business sentiment in the country is positive and upbeat, he added. India is undergoing a transformation under the present government armed with the mantra of “reform, perform, transform”.

Earlier, the Vice President held talks with President Mario Abdo Benitez, Vice President Hugo Velazquez and other leaders. He also had a meeting with President of the National Congress (Senate), Silvio Ovelar.

This was the first high-level visit from India to Paraguay since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1961. The meetings were warm and friendly and there was commitment on both sides to strengthen and deepen relations. President Abdo recalled his visit to India about 25 years ago as a student.

Having the same demographic profile with youth forming more than 65% of their respective population, India and Paraguay have similar aspirations as well as the need for imparting requisite skills to their youth. Both sides agreed to share experiences in this area.

The President and the Vice President of Paraguay strongly condemned the terrorist attack in Pulwama and conveyed condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. They stated that India could count on Paraguay´s support in the fight against terrorism and in raising concerns about threats of terrorism in the international forums.

President Abdo Benitez and Vice President Velazquez were appreciative of the economic growth in India and noted that it contributes to global growth. India with its technological strength and Paraguay as a major food producer have natural interest in strengthening bilateral trade and economic ties. Paraguay is a growing economy and India should look at Paraguay as a strategic economic hub to reach out to countries in Latin America. They invited Indian companies to invest in Paraguay.

The two sides agreed to explore new areas such as hydel and solar, health including traditional medicine, information and communication technology, farming and agriculture machinery, space and biotechnology, railways and tourism related infrastructure. Specific areas discussed included agro-processing, supply of equipment like tractors from India, hydel energy sector modernisation, supply of medical equipment and generic medicine that could be useful to Paraguayan healthcare system.

They tasked their teams to facilitate promotion of exchanges between academics and universities and also between travel professionals and stakeholders in tourism. Paraguay welcomed India's offer to provide enhanced scholarships for higher education and its ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation) program.

Emphasising the importance of people-to-people contact, it was agreed to increase tourism between the two countries. Paraguay stated that they would work towards a more business-friendly visa regime for Indian business persons and visitors.

The importance of Parliamentary visits was emphasised and Vice President Naidu invited a Parliamentary delegation from Paraguay to visit India.

India and Paraguay would be jointly celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and, in his context, Vice President Naidu announced the gifting of a Mahatma Gandhi statue to Paraguay for which a suitable location is being identified by the mayor of Asuncion. India welcomed the issue of a commemorative postal stamp by Paraguay in Asuncion, which was launched jointly by Vice President Naidu and Vice President Velazquez. President Abdo Benitez informed Naidu that Mahatma Gandhi was a great inspiration for him.

MoU between the diplomatic academies of both countries was signed and exchanged in the presence of the two Vice Presidents.

Furthermore, Paraguay assured that they would support India’s candidature to elections for various UN and multilateral bodies.

Paraguay appreciated the International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative launched by India in 2015, adding that it would be joining the ISA shortly.

To follow up on the decisions taken at this high-level meeting, a third round of Foreign Office Consultations would be held in 2019 itself.

Vice President Naidu invited the President and the Vice President of Paraguay to visit India at mutually convenient dates.