The Ministry of External Affairs moved to control the damage in India-Africa ties due to frequent attacks on African nationals which prompted the African envoys to cancel celebrations to mark the Africa Day event, organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
The Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh met a delegation of African diplomats on Wednesday and requested them to “continue with the tradition” of marking the event with suitable celebrations, sources told the media.
However, a senior African diplomat told The Hindu that they are unlikely to change the decision to boycott the event to be held on Thursday under the auspices of the ICCR.
The MEA said that an event was held on Wednesday evening to mark the Africa Day in the outskirts of Delhi but senior African diplomats refused to acknowledge the smaller event as the main celebration.
“The Minister of State will also do an outreach event with African students along with concerned Embassies to reassure them of safety. It was also decided that the MoS would meet the African Heads of Mission every three months,” sources said, after the meeting between Gen. Singh and the African diplomats.
Diplomats confirmed to The Hindu that the quarterly meetings with the MoS will be focussed on safety and security-related issues faced by Africans in India.
Earlier in the day, following the story in The Hindu on the decision of the African envoys, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter and sent out nine messages to assuage feelings and deputed Gen. Singh to address the concerns of the heads of missions of Africa regarding growing violence against African nationals in India.
Responding to the news of cancellation, Ms. Swaraj said, “I have asked my colleague Gen. V.K. Singh to meet the heads of missions of African countries in Delhi and assure them of the Indian government’s commitment to safety and security to African nationals in India.”
The African Group of Heads of Mission took the decision to recommend to their governments “not to send new students to India” due to “stereotypes and racial prejudice against Africans in India.”
The decision was taken at a meeting on Tuesday in the High Commission of Ghana called to discuss the recent murder of the Congolese student, Masunda Kitada Oliver.
Following Ms. Swaraj’s tweets, the MEA also confirmed that a group of African diplomats met Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) at the MEA, regarding the safety of African nationals.
Interestingly, the African move comes two months before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to leave for a trip to Africa, when he is expected to visit Mozambique and South Africa, as a follow up to the India-Africa Forum Summit of October 2015.