Red carpet for Prez Bolsonaro despite criticism

Modi govt rolls out red carpet for Brazil Prez Bolsonaro despite criticism from cane farmers

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro. (Reuters Photo)

India has rolled out the red carpet for Brazil’s President Jair Messias Bolsonaro, even as New Delhi’s invitation to him to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day ceremony in the national capital on Sunday triggered criticism from sugar-cane farmers of the country.

Bolsonaro, who drew flak in his own country for his allegedly misogynist and homophobic remarks in the past, arrived in New Delhi on Friday. He was received by Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, at the airport.  

“A warm welcome to President @jairbolsonaro! We are delighted to host him and we look forward to his taking part in our Republic Day celebrations. His visit will add strength to India-Brazil relations,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter in the evening. 

Bolsonaro visited Akshardham Temple soon after arriving in New Delhi. He tweeted a picture of him with a priest of the shrine. 

Brazilian President will be accorded a ceremonial reception at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday. 

Several organizations of farmers in India criticized New Delhi’s decision to invite Brazilian President to be the Chief Guest on the Republic Day. Just a month after he took over the top office in Brasilia, Brazil in February 2019 moved the World Trade Organization (WTO) objecting to India’s hike in Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for its sugar-cane growers – from Rs 1,391.20 per tonne in 2010-11 to Rs 2,750 per tonne in 2018-19. Bolsonaro’s Government also objected to New Delhi raising Minimum Indicative Export Quota (MIEQ) fixed for sugar mills in India from two million tonnes in 2017-18 to five million tonnes in 2018-19, complaining that it resulted in a surplus in global market and thus affecting farmers and millers of Brazil.

Australia and Guatemala also joined Brazil to challenge New Delhi in the WTO on the issue of government support provided to sugar-cane farmers of India.

Brazil is the largest sugar-cane producer of the world, followed by India.

“President Bolsonaro is an elected leader in a democratic country which is an emerging power in the region,” Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said in New Delhi when a journalist asked her why Government of India invited him to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day ceremony. “It (Brazil) is a country with whom we have a very strong and substantive relation. We have many areas of convergence between India and Brazil. We give great importance to engaging with Brazil and its leaders to take forward our relationship.”

N K Shukla, General Secretary of the All India Sugarcane Farmers’ Federation (AISFF), criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government for inviting Brazilian President to be the chief guest at the Republic Day ceremony. He said that even as Brasilia’s move against New Delhi at the WTO could hit over five crore sugar-cane growing farming families of India, Modi Government decided to roll out the red carpet for Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro and Modi will meet at Hyderabad House on Saturday. They will witness signing of an agreement for Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and several other pacts, including the ones for cooperation in oil and natural gas sectors, in the field of geology and mining and in the field of early childhood. India and Brazil will also sign a bilateral pact to promote and protect investments by the companies of the two nations in each other’s countries.

He will join Prime Minister and President Ram Nath Kovind to watch the Republic Day parade on the Rajpath on Sunday. The 65-year-old leader will visit Taj Mahal in Agra before concluding his four-day-visit to India on Monday.

India’s companies invested about US $ 6 billion in Brazil. The companies of the Latin American country on the other hand invested about $ 1 billion in India. “But given the complementarities and synergies that exist between our two economies, we believe that the potential is much more,” said Singh. The bilateral trade is now worth $ 8.2 billion, with India exporting agro-chemicals, synthetic yarns, auto parts, pharmaceuticals and some petroleum products worth about $ 3.8 billion to Brazil and importing crude oil, gold, vegetable oil, bulk minerals and ores worth $ 4.4 billion from the South American nation.

His allegedly contemptuous remarks on women and same-sex couples in the past also prompted many on social media to criticize Modi Government’s decision to invite the right-wing leader to be the Chief Guest on the occasion of the Republic Day of India.

Bolsonaro, who is often called “Donald Trump of Brazil”, had hit headlines in 2014 when he told Maria do Rosario, a woman politician of his country, that he would not rape her because she did not deserve it. He later repeated the sexist remark and said that he would not rape Maria do Rosario because she was “ugly”. He was also criticized for his misogyny when he said in 2017: “I have five children. Four are men, and then in a moment of weakness the fifth came out a girl.”

He was also criticized for his 2002 homophobic remark: “I won’t fight against it nor discriminate. But if I see two men kissing each other on the street, I’ll beat them up."