Interesting things about India-Panama relations.

What the Panama Papers dont tell you about India and Panama
Blog Blog Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 17:29

Three years ago the Indian government announced that Air India would begin two flights a week to Panama from 2014. Just as we started having visions of cargo carriers with large suitcases and gunny bags, we landed with a thud. We are unable to confirm if the plans were shelved and if so why.

The release of the Panama Papers have cost a Prime Minister his job in Iceland and another extreme embarrassment for the moment in the United Kingdom and led US Presidential hopeful Bernie sanders to ask why Panama is his country’s largest trading partner and New Delhi has swung into action by setting up a committee. It has the daunting task of investigating which accounts are legal and which are not and other which are neither fish nor fowl. Law, as we know, will take it course and no one, however mighty or powerful will be spared. Read here.

India and Panama are old pals and the relationship dates back to the 19th century According Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Indians immigrated to Panama to help construct the historic Panama Canal. There are over 15,000 persons of Indian origin and non-resident Indians (NRIs) in Panama with Sindhis and Gujaratis accounting for most. Panama was also the first Central American country where India established a resident mission in 1973, presumably to further economic bonds. Many Indian politicians and businesspeople have paid a visit to Panama. In this century TR Balu, Sachin Pilot, Vyalar Ravi Milind Deora, E.A. Ahmed, D. Purandeswari and Meira Kumar have travelled to Panama for various official visits.  D. Purandeswari inaugurated a Made-in-India exhibition at a trade show in that country where over a 120 companies participated in the show.

India’s business links with Panama bear mention. According to a report in Rediff in 2011 the biggest outward FDI from India was in the summer of that year by Gammon India which pumped almost $2 billion into its Panama-based joint venture Campo Puma Orient SA. The Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) is also active in the country for JVs to transport liquefied natural gas.  India exports textiles, automobile accessories, pharmaceutical products, iron and steel and plastic products to Panama among other things and imports wax, oils, boat and wooden products.

Panama is a tax haven par excellence and routinely figures in corruption scandals worldwide whether they are linked to armaments, petro-dollars, commodities or black money evading tax. The Bofors payoffs were made via a Panama-based company and the current exposé led in India by the Indian Express has many prominent names all of whom have denied any wrong-doing and all are cooperating with the law.

As we wait with bated breath for law to takes its course, we thought we’d brush up a little on India’s history with the country. We bet you didn’t know about Air India.

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