Jual Oram’s tribal engagement to start Africa Outreach-II

Adding an unusual layer to India’s African engagement, the Narendra Modi government is sending a senior Minister to hold a dialogue with the tribes of southern Africa later this month. The visit by Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram will begin a new Indian season of political, diplomatic and trade outreach to Africa.

“My visit will focus on building closer understanding between the African and Indian tribal communities and the safety and security of Indian people in Africa,” Mr. Oram said. He will first travel to Botswana in southern Africa. The tribes of southern and eastern Africa form powerful sections in countries which India is keen to partner.

The first round of outreach began in June-July when nine high-level visits to Africa took place, including five by the Prime Minister.

“Planning is under way for more such high-level visits to important African destinations during the coming months. We also expect a few important incoming visits by African dignitaries,” a highly placed diplomatic source told The Hindu. The incoming visits are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, with the arrival of Raymond Tshibanda N’tungamulongo, Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who will hold discussions with Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar during his two-day visit.

Officials are keeping the details of possible Indian visits under wraps but have indicated that the focus will be on the resource-rich countries. Diplomats on both sides indicate that the probable destinations are Sudan, Gabon, Botswana, Mali and Zambia, hinting that “food, energy, maritime security and minerals” will be the focus of such an outreach, besides more people-to-people contacts. That apart, the ‘I for Afrika’ event in Mumbai will be the largest trade event between India and the African Union (AU) in recent times aimed at diversifying trade ties.

“Joint agricultural production of crops like pulses in Tanzania and Mozambique has been successful, and several African countries are seeking Indian investments in the farm sector as Africa is trying to revive agriculture,” the senior official said. “The new areas are going to be fisheries, rare earth minerals and more intense maritime cooperation.”

A major area of the upcoming interactions will cover multilateral discussions on the Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism. “African leaders are committed to preventing the spread of global terrorism [by outfits like Boko Haram] and we highlighted the issue of security during the nine bilateral visits in the past few months,” the official source said.

The first season of diplomatic engagement with Africa was preceded by a phase of diplomatic unrest, when African diplomats in India protested anti-African violence in Indian cities. However, Tuesday’s curtain raiser for ‘I for Afrika’ was attended by a big contingent of African diplomats, led by Eritrean Ambassador Alem T. Woldmariam, who is the head of the African Group of Heads of Missions in India.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 5:11:08 PM |

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