Its an all woman show in Santiago as Patil visits Chile

April 21st, 2008 - 8:15 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil
By Liz Mathew
Santiago, April 21 (IANS) India’s first woman President Pratibha Patil will meet Michelle Bachelet, the first elected president of a Latin American country Monday, during which both countries are expected to sign agreements on air services, sports, science and technology, including on cooperation in Antarctica. If Pratibha Patil, 74, is a lawyer by profession, the 56-year-old Bachelet is a woman of many parts - a qualified surgeon, pediatrician and epidemiologist who has also studied military strategy. Bachelet, who took office two years ago, is a separated mother of three - a 14-year-old daughter and two sons. She speaks Spanish, English, German, Portuguese and French.

Daughter of an áir force officer, who was detained at the Air War Academy under charges of treason during Augusto Pinochet’s rule, Bachelet had a troublesome childhood as she and her mother were tortured in Pinochet’s notorious detention camps for dissidents.

Interestingly, Patil, who has already visited Brazil and Mexico during her 12-day tour to Latin America, was received by India’ s woman ambassador to Chile, Sushmita Gongulee Thomas. According to officials in the ministry of external affairs, Bachelet has a special equation with the women envoys posted to her country. They say many countries have replaced their men ambassadors with women officers since Bachelet took over charge.

If that is not enough, out of the three-member MPs delegation accompanying Patil, there are two women - Rajya Sabha members Kanimozhi and Mabel Rebello.

According to officials, both countries will sign a pact on civil aviation under which there would be code sharing between Chilean Airlines LAN and an Indian carrier - either the state owned Air India or any private airline.

The pact on Antarctica will see more interaction on scientific research between the two sides.

“We already have a regular expedition team going there frequently and also a permanent station,” an official said.

India and Chile along with 44 other countries are signatories to the historic Antarctic Treaty that set aside the land on the continent as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and banned military activity on the icy continent.

The pact on sports would help New Delhi know about new mechanisms and scientific training methods in football. Under the agreement, India is expected to get expertise for training its football team from Chile, officials accompanying the president on her trip said.

Chile was the first country in South America that signed a trade agreement with India in 1956. Although the relations soured during the regime of military ruler Augusto Pinochet, trade ties improved after former president Ricardo Lagos’ visit to India in 2005.

Chilean-Indian bilateral trade exceeded $2.4 billion in 2007, 38.8 percent higher than the previous year, according to official statistics.

The main obstacle to expansion of trade between the countries has so far been the distance and lack of direct shipping. Indian exports destined for South American countries are at present trans-shipped via Singapore/Hong Kong or Europe due to the absence of direct shipping links resulting in high freight costs and longer voyages.

India is also pushing its private companies to have shipping lines with Chile to promote bilateral ties.

A delegation of business leaders from India’s auto, information technology, pharmaceutical and steel industries is accompanying Patil on her first visit abroad since being elected to office in July.

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