Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday left on a six-day visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania during which he will discuss ways to effectively combat the twin threats of terrorism and piracy.
Dr. Singh, who will first head for Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union, for the Second Africa-India Forum Summit to be attended by 15 African countries, is also expected to make a strong pitch for UN reforms.
In his departure statement, Dr. Singh said that the India-Africa partnership rests on three pillars of capacity building and skill transfer, trade and infrastructure development.
“It (India-Africa Forum) is designed to respond to the needs and priorities of Africa and for India to learn from Africa’s rich experience. It is based on equality, mutual trust and a consultative and transparent approach. It is a living embodiment of South-South cooperation,” he said.
The Second Africa-India Forum Summit will be a landmark event that will for the first time bring together a large gathering of African leaders to meet with India on African soil.
“Today, both Africa and India are on the move. Africa is emerging as a new growth pole of the world, while India is on a path of sustained and rapid economic development.
Relations between India and Africa are marked by strong people-to-people interaction and a deep sense of solidarity and goodwill.
“Both Africa and India have the advantage of a youthful population, commitment to democracy, pluralism and spirit of entrepreneurship. The large population of people of Indian origin in all parts of Africa is a living testimony to our historical links,” the Prime Minister said.
These are compelling factors for a strong and purposeful partnership between India and Africa that responds to the realities of the 21st Century.
On Tanzania, he said India has excellent political and economic relations with them, which date back to the days of Julius Nyerere and the Nonaligned Movement.
“Our cooperation has expanded in recent years in diverse sectors. We wish to enhance the substance of this partnership in consonance with the developmental priorities of Tanzania. I look forward to my discussions with President Jakaya Kikwete to this end,” he said.
Like India, Africa too feels the adverse impact of terrorism and piracy is a phenomenon that affects both Africa and India and the leaders will discuss “ways and means of reducing and eliminating it,” Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, said ahead of the visit.
New Delhi has voiced its serious concerns over the threats posed by Somali pirates since about 11 per cent of seafarers engaged by international shipping companies are Indian nationals, some of whom have been taken hostage.
Dr. Singh will co-chair the Summit with the President of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in his current capacity as chairperson of the AU.
The leaders will discuss significant aspects of the India-Africa partnership with the objective of enhancing and widening its ambit for mutual benefit.
The Summit is expected to come out with the Addis Ababa Declaration setting out the roadmap for further consolidating the strategic partnership between India and the African Union. An Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation will also be firmed up at the Summit.
New Delhi’s push for getting a strong foothold in Africa comes in the midst of major initiatives being taken by China and Japan to make deep inroads there.
“Our relationship with Africa stands on its own”, says Mr. Katju going on to add, “India is not engaged in competition in Africa with any other country. We are friends and we will continue to be friends and brothers. We have a historical relationship.”
On UN reforms, India and all the countries of the African Union share the view that there is such a need including expansion in permanent and non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council.
India wants Africa to get a permanent seat in the Security Council. African countries too have supported India for a permanent membership in the UNSC.
The countries that have been asked to participate in the Summit are Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Swaziland.
On a mission to reach out to the African countries, the Prime Minister is expected to make a number of announcements like setting up of four regional centres of excellence, vocational training centres in African countries, skill training and an additional Line of Credit.
Dr. Singh will have meetings with a number of African leaders on the margins of the Summit on May 24 and 25.
The Prime Minister will be accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur and his delegation at the Summit will include External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, T.K.A. Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.
The Summit will be preceded by the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Tuesday.
The India-Africa historic relationship, which is rooted in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid, has evolved into a multifaceted engagement.
“This comprehensive paradigm of cooperation is premised on Africa’s own aspirations for developing regional and Pan-African institutions and development programmes,” says Katju.