India on Monday joined Botswana in stressing the need for “credible elections” in Zimbabwe, which has been under severe criticism from the international community for the political crisis following the disputable elections of 2008. The issue came up for discussion when Vice-President Hamid Ansari called on Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry Vivek Katju said: “There was agreement that there is need for credible elections. Botswana has been among the bitterest critics of neighbouring Zimbabwe from where illegal migrants are trickling into this country on a regular basis.”
India has, till date, chosen to steer clear of the controversy in Zimbabwe on the plea that it is a domestic issue.
During the on-board briefing last Tuesday soon after he embarked on the week-long three-nation tour of southern Africa that concluded on Monday, Mr. Ansari had said India subscribes to the African Union position. The African Union, after much debate, confined itself to urging the warring political parties of Zimbabwe to negotiate a solution to solve their differences.
During his meeting with the President of Botswana, Mr. Ansari noted that both countries were well-established democracies and the two leaders called for greater participation of women in all areas of national and public life.
Later, at a reception hosted by the Indian High Commissioner, Mr. Ansari said both countries shared a common and abiding commitment for democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.
This apart, the two sides discussed terrorism with Lt. Gen. Khama expressing his sympathies for the Mumbai terror attacks.
Mr. Ansari said terrorism was a mindless criminal activity that needed to be combated at all levels — national, regional and international.
Following the discussions, a need was felt for setting up an institutional mechanism to tie all the loose threads in the India-Botswana links. The form and structure of this mechanism will be discussed through diplomatic channels in the coming months, Mr. Katju said.
On Sunday, in the midst of a leisurely visit to the Chobe National Park, where he saw the Garden of Eden, Mr. Ansari informed his host, the Botswana Vice-President Mompati S. Merafhe, that he would try to get Bollywood to come to this part of the world to make their films.
Summing up the three-nation tour of Zambia, Malawi and Botswana, Mr. Katju said this visit served to reaffirm India’s traditional ties with southern Africa and “demonstrates our continuing commitment to nurture a very precious relationship which transcends political and economic links.
“Many ideas have been thrown up and many opportunities have been identified. We will work to concretise these opportunities and give flesh to these ideas.”