Untapped Opportunities: Pisco and India’s Latin America connection

The first time I came to know about Peru I was a young lad in school and my father had bought me a few volumes of Tintin comics. One of those volumes was ‘Prisoners of the Sun’ where Tintin and Captain Haddock arrive in Peru to intercept the ship Pachacamac in order to rescue their friend Professor Calculus, who has been kidnapped. The comic wonderfully illustrates the Peruvian landscape with Tintin and Haddock travelling through Andean villages, mountains, and rainforests before finding a hidden Inca outpost. It was a fascinating story that could easily capture the imagination of any 10-year-old.

One of the things from the comic that stayed with me was Pisco. It was a Peruvian drink that Tintin and Haddock had tried just after they arrived in Peru. As fate would have it, decades later the Peruvian embassy in New Delhi was inviting me to its International Pisco Sour Day celebrations. Pisco – a type of grape brandy – and Pisco Sour – a cocktail made from Pisco – are the pride and joy of Peru. The Peruvian Pisco Sour — there is a Chilean version too — consists of Pisco, lemon or lime juice, syrup, egg white, Angostura bitters and ice. A story says that the drink was invented by an American bartender named Victor Vaughen Morris in his bar in Lima in 1916. But today Pisco and Pisco Sour are enjoyed all over the world.

In that sense, Pisco is an important part of Peruvian culture and introducing it to the wider Indian population is a good way to increase cultural understanding between India and Peru. In fact, there is a crying need to increase understanding between India and all of Latin America through culture. This is because traditionally India’s engagement with Latin America has been guided by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). But the latter has received less importance under the current political regime in New Delhi due to NAM’s Nehruvian legacy, socialist historical moorings and current geopolitical realities. In this scenario, a new path is needed to boost relations between India and Latin America – a region that is growing in importance and with which China is already engaging heavily.

And this new path can be based on culture, people-to-people connections and commerce. The three actually work in tandem, reinforcing each other. Latin America is a region rich in resources, has three G20 economies – Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina – and is blessed with an expansive market. There is much room for bilateral cooperation in science and technology, telemedicine, automobiles, Fourth Industrial Revolution, etc. But it has to be catalysed through greater people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Of course, for India – and most of other countries today – the US and China will continue to be foreign policy priorities. But Latin America holds out vast untapped opportunities for New Delhi. Boosting relations with this region will certainly add to India’s strategic depth, increasing its bargaining chips at the international high table. Let’s drink to that.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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