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Interview with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

NEW DELHI, 30/10/2015: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, prior to Bilateral Meetings of 3rd India Africa Forum Summit at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on October 30, 2015. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is seen as one of Africa’s strong men, but also is a wanted war criminal according to the International Criminal Court, a charge he calls a ‘western conspiracy’. India not only braves US sanctions against Sudan as the second largest exporter there, but rejected calls from the ICC to arrest Mr. Bashir when he visited India this week. In this interview to Suhasini Haidar and Kallol Bhattacherjee, President Bashir says that there is vast poten.

You are here for the India Africa Forum summit, do you think it was a success?

I was very happy to participate in this India Africa forum. It was very successful by all standards. India has pledged big support for Africa, and the IAFS will represent a big leap for India Africa ties. Although relations between India and Africa are very old and deep, contacts between the two sides was continuous. But this forum has given a fresh impetus, a big push to relations, not only in the field of economy but in political partnership as well.

You said the IAFS declaration was a success, but one area it seemed to have failed was in seeing clear language on UN reforms and Security Council expansion. Why were the two sides unable to give support to India’s aspirations, only “taking note” of them?

No no… Sudan very much supports India. Of course, we want India to have a permanent seat on the security council. But much will depend on how the restructuring of the UN takes place. The reformation that is needed is across the United Nation, across all bodies. Africa isn’t represented at the UNSC either, and we want 2 seats on the Council. There is general agreement on the need for restructuring the UN, and increasing the UNSC seats. Africa will be an important part of this process.

Even before you landed in India, there were calls from the International Criminal Court, also from international human rights agencies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for India to arrest you. How do you see these warrants, and India’s refusal to accept them?

We challenge the ICC and we defy it. These warrants are politically motivated accusations. In Sudan we have been targeted by western countries because we have rejected their hegemony on Sudan, and turned their companies away, that were only interested in oil. Not only in Sudan, but we reject their policies in the Middle East , in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Syria. In Sudan we managed to expel all western companies who were involved in the extraction of oil, and replaced them with Chinese companies and Indian companies. This is why the west is targeting us through the ICC. The allegations are baseless, and India rejects them too as part of the colonial legacy of the past, it is a kind of “legal colonialism” they are practicing.

Colonial legacy?

India has always stood with Africa on the freedom struggle against colonial powers. Mahatma Gandhi went from Africa to India, and once India won its reedom it helped African countries to get their independence. In 1947 all of Sub-Saharan Africa was under colonial rule, and India’s support was crucial. In Sudan, India conducted the first population census and even set up our election commission. So India’s support has always been there and on this issue (of ICC) too India’s support is there.

In terms of India-Sudan ties, India is the 2nd largest exporter to Sudan, but at 11% is far behind China that makes up 31% of exports to Sudan. In your talks with PM Narendra Modi, how did you envision growing bilateral trade?

In the past India was Sudan’s number 1 commercial partner, and now hopefully there will be a renewal. There is vast potential for India-Sudan cooperation, especially in the big projects. India has signed new agreements with Sudan in the field of petrol and hydrocarbons, and have several projects on power generation.

One for 500mW, and now they are erecting an extension to that for 750mW. The big potential now is in he field of agriculture. Sudan is agro-based and this will be one of the best areas of cooperation. We are involved in the Food Security project for the Arab and Middle east world and India should be involved in this.

Information Technology is another area for cooperation since India is so advanced in it. PM Modi has spoken of Solar energy, and we would like to work together on this.

In that context, how do you see the question of India-US trade relations? Many leaders present at this conference have mentioned worries that India’s desire to align its trade policies with the International Patent Regime could have an impact on the price of generic drugs that India supplies Africa?

There are many attempts by the western countries and companies to exploit us. Whatever India’s relations with the US are, I have no doubt they will continue to help the people of Africa as there are benefits to both of us in keeping these partnerships. India is also keeping good relations with other countries like BRICS countries and looking at alternative arrangements to the West.

As a North African country, how do you see the fallout of the violence in Libya in the post-Qadhafi era?

When Qadhafi was in Libya, he was the major supporter of rebel groups in Sudan. So when the revolution came to Libya, we supported it. Unfortunately though, his death caused a vacuum and the people are all fighting each other now. This has opened the door for terrorist groups like ISIS into Libya. They are all a direct threat to Sudan and other neighbouring countries, and it is a very sad and dangerous situation.


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