New Delhi, May 23 (IBNS) Vice President Hamid Ansari will be visiting Ethiopia to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of Africa Union, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday.
"The Vice-President Shri Hamid Ansari will represent India at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the OAU, or the African Union now, in Addis Ababa on 25th May," said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
"As you are aware, our relations with Africa are rooted in history and our history of solidarity again colonialism and apartheid. Since then of course our engagement with Africa has come a long way, and today we have built a new template for partnership in the form of the India-Africa Forum Summit. Our partnership is guided by the vision and promise of our African partners of their priorities," he said.
Transcript of the media briefing:
Official Spokesperson (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): Good afternoon friends and thank you very much for being here this afternoon. As is our usual practice, I will first make the announcements and then we will have a formal briefing on an issue and then the floor will be opened for any questions that you may like to ask on anything else.
The announcement that I have to make relates to two of my colleagues who are here. Let me introduce them to you before I make that announcement. On my right is Joint Secretary Mr. Ravi Bangar. He handles East and Southern Africa. On my left is Joint Secretary (West Africa), Mr. Sanjiv Kohli, who handles the entire range of issues relating to West and Central Africa. Both Sanjiv and Ravi will be available to respond to questions that relate to the announcement that I have to make.
The Vice-President Shri Hamid Ansari will represent India at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the OAU, or the African Union now, in Addis Ababa on 25th May. As you are aware, our relations with Africa are rooted in history and our history of solidarity again colonialism and apartheid. Since then of course our engagement with Africa has come a long way, and today we have built a new template for partnership in the form of the India-Africa Forum Summit. Our partnership is guided by the vision and promise of our African partners of their priorities.
India assists Africa in charting its course through institution building, infrastructure development, technical and vocational skill development. By our estimates there are about 15,000 African students who are studying in India. India is undertaking approximately about a hundred national or regional or sub-regional projects of various kinds in Africa. All of you are aware of the Pan African E-Network for Telemedicine and Tele-education which covers a span of 47 countries. This is a major success story of our institution building partnership with Africa.
We also support actively peace and security on the continent. Currently there are about 6,500 Indian soldiers who are involved in peacekeeping on the African continent in different parts.
Our trade just about two decades ago was less than a billion dollars, in 1991 it was less than a billion dollars. In 2012, it is approximately 70 billion dollars. Our target is 90 billion dollars by the year 2015. Those of you who are following this are also aware that we have extended non-reciprocal duty-free tariff preference scheme for LDCs. Of the 47 countries which qualify for this, there are 33 from Africa. This has significantly enhanced their market access to the growing Indian market. Finally, just to round it up, Indian investment in Africa since 2005 is approximately 47 billion dollars.
In short, we are working in myriad ways to assist the historic transformation taking place in Africa. My two colleagues will speak to you about different aspects of that. Subsequent to that we will have the floor open for questions on this issue. Let me ask first Mr. Bangar to speak about the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Joint Secretary (East & Southern Africa) (Shri Ravi Bangar): Thanks Akbar. I think you have made my job very easy through the fact sheet that you have run on India-Africa relations and Africa's development.
I think the significance of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the African Union, and its earlier avatar of Organization of African Unity, lies in two milestone achievements it has to its credit. One is the end of colonialism in the continent. When it was founded in 1963, several countries of Africa were still under the colonial rule. But that has got all over in these fifty years. Another significant and spectacular achievement of the African Union was the end of apartheid regime in South Africa. These are two political developments with which, as Akbar had mentioned earlier, India has been very closely associated with, supported them.
And we take pride in the achievements of the African Union, and therefore, given this background and also India's close political relations with several leaders of Africa, with our own leaders like Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, we have had close relations with Cama Ben Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Keneth Kaunda of Zambia, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, then Samora Machel from Mozambique, Agostinho Neto of Angola, Oliver Tambo and Mandela of South Africa. These are a few of the names which immediately come to mind and which resonate even today on India's engagement and the leadership role they played in shaping the current continent and the politics and the developments that we see today on the African continent as well as Africa's engagement with its other developing partners.
The importance again of the African Union today one sees more in its actions which are taking place for socioeconomic development, at the regional level the regional economic communities which are eight of them, and then also in the peacekeeping operations on the continent. It is important because back in the 1970s and 1980s Africa was known more for war, disease, death, hunger, famine and what not.
But today when we look at the reports coming out from Africa and also by some of the leading economic and financial institutions including Ernst and Young, is very much called the possible next goal on the pole of global economic growth. And that is something very important for us to take note of because now this is the transformation of Africa into a new modern, forward-looking continent which provides hope to its youth and to the other sections of population, a diverse population, in wide-ranging areas in which Africa today wishes to engage with its partners again is I think a factor that we need to take note of.
In view of this we devised India-Africa Forum Summit mechanism. The first meeting took place in New Delhi in 2008 and the last one in Addis Ababa in 2011. Akbar has already mentioned about the lines of credit we have extended which are close to about eight billion dollars of the two summit decisions. The trade is close to over 70 billion and investment again is close to about 50 billion between India and Africa. Duty-free tariff preference scheme is another tool, important one, of providing market access to the exports of LDCs to India. And since bulk of the LDCs still happen to be in Africa, this is mainly benefiting the African countries.
In terms of scholarships, we have doubled the number. They are close to 22,000 now. And we hope that by the next India-Africa Forum Summit mechanism which will take place in Delhi, we will have much more substantive elements to add to it given the experience that we have now developed, the Africans' evolving needs which are again remain focused on human resource development. A major focus of India-Africa Partnership is in capacity building, in terms of establishing institutions, in human resource development, training programmes, and also sending out our experts to the various African countries responding to the needs of the African countries.
Now I will come to a little bit about the Hon. Vice-President's visit to Addis Ababa which is on the 25th and that is to participate in the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the African Union. Given India's close, strong, historic and present partnership with Africa, it is I think absolutely appropriate that India is represented at such a high level in the summit meetings. He will be addressing the gathering in the summit. We are one of the very few select partners who have been invited by the African Union. Apart from India they invited Brazil, France, EU, China, US, Russia, Jamaica, Palestine and the UAE. This is the select list of the invitees for the summit as the partners of Africa in Africa's development.
With these words I will stop.
Official Spokesperson: Joint Secretary (WA) Mr. Kohli is open to take questions. With that I think we will open the floor for questions rather than anybody else speaking on this.
Question: Sir, even China, US and Europe are deeply engaged with African countries. What is special and unique about India that we are being invited by the African Union?
Joint Secretary (E&SA): This is a decision taken by the African Union. I am sure that they do see some uniqueness in this partnership. And India's engagement with Africa is not predicated on Africa's relationship with any other country. So, we are talking about India-Africa relationship and their partnership.
Question: Ravi, the Chinese trade with Africa has just crossed 200 billion dollars and they are practically buying up all the mines, they overbid us and so on and so forth. But at the same time there is a lot of disenchantment with the way China is doing business in certain African countries. It has even become an election issue in certain parts of Africa. In their way of dealing with Africa and our way of dealing with Africa, what do you see are major differences and how is the overall African response or reaction to the way we are trying to help them?
Official Spokesperson: Before I ask Mr.Bangar to answer that question, I think we will confine it to what is our way of dealing with this thing and we do not want to get into a comparison with others. But I think what is unique about India and what are our strengths and core capacities, that he will answer.
Joint Secretary (E&SA): When the former President of India Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil went to South Africa, in the joint press meeting which was held in Pretoria President Zuma by name appreciated the ITEC programme of India. This is last year. This is something very unique that for the first time an African leader was naming India's ITEC programme. So, there are certain unique features of India's engagement with Africa. India's engagement, as I said earlier, is in responding to the African needs. India's engagement with Africa is in the paradigm of the south-south cooperation, which means they have the ownership of what they would like India-Africa partnership to develop together.
Another significant element is that our core focus has remained on capacity building and human resource development. If you visit Ethiopia today, you will very commonly find people saying that we owe whatever we are today to the Indian teachers. So, those have created I think the base, the niche areas of our modern-day engagement and cooperation with Africa.
Question: Mr. Venkat has just asked about the business dealing in comparison to India. A lot of Chinese goods and Taiwanese goods are there in West Africa at least in Ghana. I had been there also. So, what is the position today of the Indian goods? What is the business of commerce dealing with India and Africa, West Africa?
Joint Secretary (West Africa) (Shri Sanjiv Kohli): Trade basically in principle happens on principles of comparative advantages. If you look at Ghana, Ghana is a growing economy, it has been growing at probably double digit for the last ten years. We have our core strengths. The trade would respond to our core strengths and how they fit into their requirements. Chinese have their own share of the market. So, again actual comparisons probably will not hold. But as the trade figures have pointed out, we have also gone up to 70 billion in terms of bilateral trade.
The Chinese trade might be three times of what our trade is. But I will just again make a note because we spoke about we are not going into comparisons, but according to official statistics, Indian investments still exceed Chinese investments into Africa. That again talks of our model. Probably our cooperation and our investments have been long term. China probably has been spending more in terms of credit, but in terms of actually setting up industries, value addition, I think we have been doing better than the Chinese.
Question: As you have said, we have more than 5,000 peacekeepers in Africa but we seem to be ignoring or neglecting the defence sector while engaging with Africa. China is making deep inroads in defence equipment in Africa but we are not pushing our defence systems there.
Joint Secretary (E&SA): Again in terms of the defence cooperation that India has with several African countries, it is quite significant. South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigera are a few of the countries I can straight away name. Again we are not getting into a comparison with what China is doing there. We will work on the basis of what our core strengths are. That is our advantage. This cooperation has also been appreciated in the United Nations, in the African Union, in the regional economic communities like ECOWAS or EAC of India's contribution in peacekeeping, in providing security in the countries which are in the conflict zone in Africa.
Official Spokesperson: We do not have those figures here with us.
Question: Sir, Vice-President of India is coming back on 23rd and is scheduled again to go to South Africa on 25th. Is it correct that Prime Minister of India is not in India and his schedule is to go to Japan and that is why Vice-President of India is going to South Africa on 25th, or President has refused to go out of India?
Official Spokesperson: I think you are mistaken and have got it wrong. The Prime Minister is only leaving on the 27th and this- the OAU/AU event - we are talking of is on the 25th. I do not know where you are getting that sort of information. It is a carefully considered decision to send a very high-level representation to the summit. And the summit has allotted a speaking slot giving importance to India on that. I think it is baseless to say what you are saying. I do not know where this information has come and we can totally deny it.
Question: There is a controversy over Indians buying land in Africa. One reads a lot about it. Could you just clarify that point?
Joint Secretary (E&SA): Africa again finds itself challenged because of lack of agricultural development. And one outcome of this is the food security element, equation, of several African countries. Several countries in Africa have identified that they need to enhance agricultural production. This is their policy. Under this policy they also identified the arable land on which crops can be grown.
I will give you one example. In case of Malawi for example, they have looked at India as a target export for pulses as well as for their own nutrition requirements. So, they grow what is called the Tuvar dal in Malawi, in Tanzania. They also meet their own requirements and the bulk they export to India. But that is also for increasing the revenue or export surpluses. The policy of some of the African governments is also to invite foreign direct investment in the agricultural sector. When they invite a foreign direct investment, it is not exclusively to any particular country but to all the global players. And the response of the companies from country x, y or z is based on their own analysis of their own requirements and what they look at from a purely business model of risks and the profits. And, therefore, they participate in the projects in all sectors of agriculture, be it irrigation, be it crops, or be it post harvest operations over there. So, this is not something that is a Government of India policy but it is a policy of the recipient or the host governments. That is what the businesses respond to irrespective of whichever country they come from.
Question: Sir, is the Vice-President scheduled to meet any important leaders on the sidelines?
Joint Secretary (E&SA): These are still being worked. As they get finalized, I am sure we will let you know.
Question:Sir, last month there was a controversy in South Africa where a group landed in an Air Force Base in South Africa. There were reports that the Indian High Commissioner's role was under the scanner. Has that been raised with the South African Government and any information sought?
Official Spokesperson: I think you are a bit dated in this information because since then our High Commission in Pretoria has put out twice I think press releases, and they list out the entire details of this issue. If you are interested, let me try and run through quickly the factual information.
The request was made by the High Commission of India on the 28th of February. This request was in accordance with normal protocol. It was made by the Defence Advisor of the High Commission of India on 28th February addressed to the Chief of the Defence, Foreign Relations in the South African National Defence Force, which is the standard and official channel of communication prescribed for communications by the Defence Advisors based in South Africa. Copies of these communications are also sent to others. The communication was followed up on 4th April by the Defence Advisor. And it was on 9th April that an authorization was provided by the South African authorities.
That is, the request was made on 28thFebruary and a response with the clearance was provided on the 9thApril. So, there was adequate time, for a proper consideration of that request. And even 9th of April is about three weeks prior to the scheduled landing date. So, the request was made in advance, it was in accordance with normal proper channels, and it was cleared well in advance of the visit.
Now, my understanding is that there were several senior dignitaries on that aircraft and that is why in accordance with normal processes that the High Commission asked for due courtesies for such dignitaries. The request was made and it was acceded to. I would suggest that if you are interested you have a look at the Press Release which we can provide to you and it has the names of those who were there on that flight so that you have information on this. Some of them were also part of a delegation which was officially meeting other dignitaries in South Africa.
Question: Sir, I was wondering about the status of the company Denel. Is it blacklisted, has it been removed off the blacklist? What is the status?
Joint Secretary (E&SA): I do not have any information on this.
Official Spokesperson:If there are no more questions, I will just give a break so that my colleagues can leave. Then if you would like to ask me any question on any other thing, I will come back in a couple of minutes. Thank you.