Modi: Africa Is Vital For India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tour of Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania – an effort to increase manifold India’s footprint in the continent – ended on Monday. It followed trips to other African countries in June by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari.
Prime Minister Modi has once again described Africa as the “most important development partner” of the South Asian country in the 21st century. Speaking at an event in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Monday, the visiting premier said: “India is not a selfish nation, only bothered about ourselves. We believe in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (‘the world is one family’).”
Modi, who reached Kenya on Sunday night on the fourth and final leg of his four-nation Africa tour, discussed various ways to bolster and expand bilateral co-operation in a wide range of areas with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. The two leaders signed seven agreements, including in the field of defence and security and avoidance of double taxation.
Later, the visiting prime minister announced extension of a concessional Line of Credit of USD 44.95 million to Kenya to help the African nation in development of small and medium enterprises and textiles. He promised President Kenyatta that India would build a cancer hospital in Kenya to provide quality and affordable healthcare.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi and President Kenyatta agreed that terrorism and radicalisation of youths are common challenges for India, Kenya, the region and the whole world. Speaking at a joint press conference, Modi said: “We have agreed to deepen our security partnership including in fields of cyber security, combating drugs and narcotics and human trafficking.” He told the press that the MoU on defence co-operation would entail staff exchanges, expertise sharing, training, co-operation in hydrography and equipment supply.
The Indian PM stressed that New Delhi and Nairobi shared common interest in the security, including in maritime security, as they were connected by the Indian Ocean. As far as maritime security is concerned, Modi said that “closer co-operation in this particular field occupies an important place in our defence and security engagement”.
Interestingly, all four nations (Mozambique, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania) on Modi’s tour are on the Indian Ocean Coast, a piracy hotspot. With warships patrolling the Somali Coast, pirates are operated further away and staged attacks closer to India than Somalia. The Indian Navy has played a significant role in these patrols off the East African Coast to protect trade routes. As a result, maritime security was one of Modi’s key objectives in Africa.
Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Modi described Tanzania as the most important development partner of India in Africa. During his meeting with Tanzanian President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, the visiting PM said that his government would take every necessary step to boost bilateral economic ties. He also said that the main aim of his visit was to give an impetus to India-Tanzania ties.
Senior spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said in a statement that Modi and President Magufuli discussed a wide range of issues aimed at boosting ties with the African continent, particularly in the economic sphere. In the presence of two leaders, Indian and Tanzanian officials signed five agreements. Under one of the agreements, India will provide a Line of Credit of USD 92 million for rehabilitation and improvement of Zanzibar’s water supply system.
Other agreements signed included an MoU on water resource management and development, another for establishment of vocational training centre at Zanzibar, the third one on visa waiver for diplomatic/official passport holders and an agreement between the National Small Industries Corporation of India and Tanzania’s Small Industries Development Organisation.
Speaking at a joint press conference, PM Modi described India as a trusted partner of Tanzania, saying that he and President Magufuli “agreed to deepen overall defence and security partnership, especially in the maritime domain”. For his part, the Tanzanian president said: “Our in-depth discussions on regional and global issues reflected our considerable convergence on issues of common interest and concern.”
Earlier on Saturday night, Prime Minister of Tanzania Kassim Majaliwa and Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe received Prime Minister Modi at the Dar-es-Salaam airport.
The Indian premier, who concluded his five-day four-nation Africa trip on Monday, arrived in Tanzania after visiting Mozambique and South Africa. The main purpose of his Africa tour was to strengthen co-operation in various areas, like hydrocarbons, maritime security, trade and investment, agriculture and food. Experts opine that the most important element of Modi’s diplomacy (since coming to office in May 2014) is building a personal rapport with African leaders. Of the four countries visited, three have held elections. The political changes in Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania have prompted the Indian PM to visit these countries and meet the new leaderships there. At every stop, the premier tried hard to invoke India’s past links with the continent – the shared experience of struggle against colonial powers. He also laid out blueprints for future co-operation, in the face of stiff competition from China.
Moreover, populations of India and Africa combined account for a third of the global population. For years, India and its African friends have lobbied for UN Security Council reforms. South Africa and India support each other’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat, with India backing South Africa over Nigeria. Former Indian High Commissioner to South Africa and Kenya Rajiv Bhatia says that Prime Minister Modi, with his visit to four countries, has stepped up the pace of India’s Africa engagement. An interesting gain is that India is acquiring multiple gateways to Africa. In the past, Kenya was perhaps the only one gateway, until it was displaced by South Africa. Now, Mozambique is a new gateway, explains Bhatia.