Political stability vital for sustainable economic development

Speaking at a retreat with leaders from Africa immediately after the conclusion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit — the first time BRICS countries have involved countries in the developing world — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised that India would continue contributing to peace and stability in Africa currently wracked by ever-widening conflict after the Europe-led bombing and regime removal in Libya.

Pointing out that sustainable economic development required an environment of social and political stability, Dr. Singh did not spell out how India would enhance its engagement in this respect. India, however, was one of the first countries to promise $100 million for the stabilisation of Mali, where the French beat back attempts by a coalition of Islamists and separatists to overthrow a government that itself had come to power by a coup. It also made financial contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia.

Dr. Singh recounted that in addition to assistance to these two countries, India actively supports African initiatives for peace and security in the continent. “Over 6,500 Indian soldiers support U.N. Peacekeeping Operations in various parts of Africa and a large Indian contingent is helping the U.N. Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo carry out its mandate,” he said.

India, he said, had added a new template for partnership in the form of the India-Africa Forum Summit.

Though India’s ties with Africa are rooted in the history of solidarity against colonialism and apartheid, the engagement has come a long way since then. The pan-Africa e-Network for telemedicine and tele-education, functional in 47 countries in Africa, is a major success story and India was ready to work with Africa on e-governance to help bridge the digital divide in Africa.

The Prime Minister said New Delhi was reviewing the terms and conditions of its lines of credit so that they could be harmonised with the budgetary requirements of African countries and in line with their development priorities. On the trade front, India’s non-reciprocal Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme Scheme for LDCs had significantly enhanced the access of African LDCs to the Indian market.

Dr. Singh described the Indian private sector as one of the key drivers of the India-Africa partnership and drew attention to the recently concluded Ninth Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership which generated interest in 500 projects worth $70 billion.

He said BRICS offered another avenue for cooperation. “Initiatives such as BRICS bank could further leverage the collective capacity of BRICS countries to assist the transformation of Africa. This is an objective that India remains committed to,” he assured.

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