efe-epaLa Paz

India on Friday expressed its interest in investing in the lithium industry of Bolivia, home to a vast number of untapped mines of the mineral that is used to produce rechargeable batteries for portable electronics and electric vehicles.

Indian President Ram nath Kovind, who is on a three-day visit to the Latin American country, met his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales for wide ranging talks on ties in sectors like space, mining, information technology, pharmaceutical and traditional medicines, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.

This is the first high-level visit by an Indian leader to the country since the establishment of diplomatic ties.

The Indian president, who is on a three-nation Latin American tour to strengthen India's ties in trade, investment and renewable energy, told Morales that Indian companies with their cutting edge technologies can help Bolivia develop lithium products.

Kovind and Morales attended Bolivia-India business forum in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz on the sidelines of the first official visit by the Indian head of state to the country.

Morales said Bolivia had nearly $4.5 billion guaranteed investments to industrialize lithium with at least 14 processing plants.

He said 20 more such plants are in the pipeline that will provide "consumables" to the processing industry and seven others to use the byproducts, including those intended to produce medicines.

Bolivia published a report recently which claimed that the country has the largest lithium reserves in the world with at least 21 million tons in Uyuni only, excluding other areas of the country.

Morales' government in February chose Chinese company Xinjiang TBEA Group as a strategic partner for several lithium processing projects, for which it is expected to invest $2.3 billion.

Moreover, state-run Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos and Germany's ACI Systems have a joint venture for extracting lithium from Uyuni with an investment of around $900 million.

Lithium is mostly used to produce chargeable batteries whose popularity and usage are also growing in military and aerospace applications.

The collaboration in lithium extraction for multiple industrial usages was one of the common interests of Kovind and Morales.

Kovind also participated in an India-Bolivia business meet where business representatives of the two countries signed agreements worth $32 million of trade.

The Bolivian president said India ranked third in export purchases from Bolivia. Last year, it was worth $723 million, especially in gold. While as import purchases from India stood at $571 million with a positive balance for the landlocked South American nation.

President Kovind was in Croatia from March 25-28 and is scheduled to leave for Chile on Saturday.

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