India-Portugal relations were established in 1949, but the history of Portuguese India goes back to the 1500s. The two countries share an excellent political relationship today having overcome the irritants of 1961. Read here to learn more about bilateral relations.
Relations with Portugal today remain close, friendly, and devoid of irritants. Diplomatic relations between India and Portugal were established in 1949 but following problems in negotiations over Goa, all diplomatic and consular links were severed on September 1, 1955.
Goa was liberated in 1961. Through the sixties and up to 1974 in Portugal, there continued an increasingly strong movement for democracy at home and decolonization abroad.
With India, this culminated in signing a Treaty reestablishing diplomatic relations in New Delhi on December 31, 1974, following which the Embassies of the two countries were re-opened.
History of India-Portugal Relations
Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached the shores of Calicut (in present-day Kerala, India) in 1498, establishing a sea route to India. His voyages (1497–99, 1502–03, 1524) opened the sea route from western Europe to Asia by way of the Cape of Good Hope.
For almost a century (1500–1600), the Portuguese held a monopoly on European exploration and trade in the Indian Ocean.
- The Portuguese established trading posts and forts along the Indian coast, including Goa, Daman, and Diu.
- For judicial purposes, the province of Goa also included Macau in China and Timor in the Malay Archipelago.
- Portuguese India formed a single administrative province under a governor-general and a single ecclesiastical province subject to the archbishop of Goa, who was also primate of the East.
Portuguese dominance in the spice trade was marked by the capture of Goa in 1510.
Timeline of the advent of Portuguese in India
- 1502: Vasco da Gama returned to India on his second voyage, seeking to assert Portuguese dominance in the region.
- Conflict with Calicut: Tensions with the ruler of Calicut, the Zamorin, led to hostilities, marking the beginning of Portuguese military involvement in the region.
- 1505-1509: Albuquerque’s Appointment: Afonso de Albuquerque, a notable Portuguese admiral, was appointed as the first Governor of Portuguese India in 1505.
- 1510: Conquest of Goa: Albuquerque led a military campaign to capture Goa from the Bijapur Sultanate.
- Goa became a crucial hub for Portuguese trade and a strategic base for further expansion.
- Establishment of Forts: The Portuguese built forts along the Indian coast, including in Diu and Daman, to strengthen their maritime and territorial control.
- Control over Maritime Trade Routes: Portuguese dominance extended to the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Southeast Asia.\
- 1526-1538: Reign of Martim Afonso de Sousa: Martim Afonso de Sousa, as the Viceroy of Portuguese India, expanded Portuguese territories and strengthened their influence.
- 16th Century: Conflict with Ottoman Empire: The Portuguese faced challenges from the Ottoman Empire and regional powers, leading to conflicts and battles.
- Trade Monopoly Challenges: European rivals, including the Dutch and English, challenged Portuguese dominance in the spice trade.
- 17th Century: Decline of Portuguese Power: The Dutch and English East India Companies challenged Portuguese dominance in the Indian Ocean, leading to the loss of key territories.
- Decline of Influence: By the mid-17th century, Portuguese power in India was on the decline.
- 1961: Integration of Goa: In 1961, India annexed the territories of Goa, Daman, and Diu, ending more than four centuries of Portuguese rule in the region.
India-Portugal diplomatic relations
India-Portugal established diplomatic relations in 1947, soon after India gained independence.
However, they soon went into decline in 1950 after Portugal’s dictator Antonio Salazar refused to surrender the Portuguese enclaves.
- Indian military action under Operation Vijay liberated Goa on 19 December 1961, ending over 450 years of Portuguese rule.
- However, strained diplomatic relations were restored following the Portuguese Carnation Revolution in April 1974 which overthrew Salazar’s, Estado Novo.
- India and Portugal finally signed a treaty on 31 December 1974 in recognition of India’s sovereignty over Goa, Daman & Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, and related matters. The treaty came into force on 3 June 1975.
India’s relations with Portugal are warm and friendly. Portugal views India as a vibrant pluralistic democracy, a major world economy, and an ancient civilization with which it has close historical and cultural ties.
- Portugal has consistently supported India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
- The idea of starting an India-EU Summit was mooted for the first time by Portugal when the current UNSG Antonio Guterres was Prime Minister in Portugal and the first India-EU Summit was subsequently held in Lisbon under the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union in 2000. It was attended by PM Vajpayee.
India-Portugal Economic and Trade Relations
Economic relations between India and Portugal have been growing, with a focus on trade and investment.
Efforts have been made to explore business opportunities, including collaborations in technology, renewable energy, and tourism.
- Major Indian exports to Portugal: Textiles and apparel including ready-made garments; agriculture products; metals; chemicals; plastic and rubber; footwear; machinery and appliances; leather and its articles; vehicles and transport materials.
- Major Portuguese exports to India: Machinery and appliances; metals; minerals; plastic and rubber; chemicals; textiles and apparel; paper and pulp; wood and cork; optical and precision instruments.
Cultural Impact of Portuguese in India
- Syncretic Influences: Portuguese influence led to cultural syncretism, with elements of Portuguese architecture, cuisine, and language blending with Indian traditions.
- Catholic Missionary Activity: The Portuguese played a significant role in spreading Christianity in India, particularly in Goa.
- Cultural Exchanges: India and Portugal have engaged in cultural exchanges, promoting mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s heritage.
Defense and Security Cooperation
Both countries have explored opportunities for defense and security cooperation. India and Portugal signed the MoU in defense cooperation in January 2017.
- Collaboration in areas like counter-terrorism has been a shared objective.
Challenges and Opportunities
- Trade Enhancement: There is room for further enhancement of bilateral trade, with both nations exploring opportunities in sectors like technology, renewable energy, and pharmaceuticals.
- Cultural Understanding: Promoting greater cultural understanding and people-to-people ties can strengthen the overall relationship.
- Addressing Global Issues: Collaborating on global challenges, such as climate change and public health crises, provides opportunities for joint efforts.
India-Portugal relations, despite the historical connections rooted in colonialism, have forged a contemporary relationship based on mutual respect and shared objectives. By focusing on economic collaboration, cultural exchanges, and addressing global challenges together, both nations have the potential to build a robust and cooperative partnership in the 21st century.
-Article by Swathi Satish