Africa visit extremely productive, says Naidu
Zimbabwe: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu Tuesday said his three-nation Africa visit was "extremely productive" and has taken the India-Africa relations to next level by reinforcing existing ties and forging cooperation in new areas.
Naidu returned to New Delhi this morning after his six-day visit of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
"In the last four and a half years of this government, 29 visits to Africa have taken place at the level of president, vice president and prime minister. This is truly unprecedented," Naidu told media on board the special Air India aircraft.
India gives high priority to relations with Africa, Naidu said.
"You are aware of the high priority government gives to our relations with Africa. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently set out 10 guiding principles to enhance our engagement with Africa. My visit to these three countries was in this context," he said, adding that the tour was "extremely productive".
Naidu said his tour was the first high-level visit to these three countries after a significant gap. "In fact, in Zimbabwe, it was after 21 years and the president of Zimbabwe was appreciative that I visited the country soon after his election as the president," he added.
"The leadership of these countries received me with great warmth. The president of Botswana flew back from his visit to Mozambique to meet me at the airport on his arrival. The President of Zimbabwe spent more than an hour with me to discuss various issues of mutual interest. The Malawi president was himself my host and even hosted a vegetarian luncheon banquet in my honour where the First Lady was also present. These were special gestures shown to me," he said.
India and the three African countries share similar values, common bonds of democracy and shared history of colonialism, he said.
"My visit was to build on these strong foundations and take our relations to next level by reinforcing existing ties and forging relationship in new areas," he said.
"The outcome of my visit clearly indicates that this has been achieved. These are also countries which India has strongly supported in their socio-economic development. This was unequivocally acknowledged by all the three presidents," he said.
The president of Zimbabwe "openly thanked India" for standing by them during their period of isolation, he said.
At the India-Africa Summit III, India had agreed to extend Lines of Credit to Africa of USD 10 billion over 5 years in addition to USD 600 million as grant, he said.
"During my visit, I made substantial commitment to them on development partnership and assistance. Major commitments made includes, inter-alia, USD 350 million for projects in Zimbabwe and USD 220 million of Lines of Credit for water supply projects in Malawi and setting up of the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Zimbabwe and Malawi as grant assistance," Naidu said.
"The president of Malawi specifically asked our assistance for skills development which I readily agreed to. I invited all of them to participate actively in the tele-education and tele-medicine project India has launched recently across Africa," he said.
"India will also be gifting one lakh NCERT school textbooks for classes 8 to 12 in Malawi, he said.
During his Africa visit, there were discussions on encouraging engagement, especially in the areas of agriculture, health, pharmaceuticals, ICT, minerals and mining, diamond trading, railways and infrastructure and logistics, Naidu said.
"All the three leaders were appreciative of the role the Indian private sector was playing in investing in their respective countries and contributing to their development," he said.
Minerals, especially rare earth minerals and their trading came in for specific discussion since all these three countries are rich in minerals including uranium, copper, nickel etc, he said.
"We signed an MoU with Malawi on providing capacity building in nuclear energy regulatory framework, and its protection, safety etc. keeping in mind the rich deposits of uranium and rare earth minerals in Malawi. We also signed an MoU on geology, mining and minerals with Zimbabwe. Direct trading in raw diamonds was also discussed with Botswana and Zimbabwe," he said.
The three countries were "deeply appreciative" of medical services in India as well as the services being rendered by India's private sector hospitals in their respective countries and the ever-increasing need for Indian pharmaceuticals products, Naidu said.
Agriculture was another area of focus during the visit, he said.
"We are setting up the India-Africa Institute for Agriculture and Rural Development in Malawi which will cater to Africa on training and capacity building," he said. "We also agreed to import mangoes from Malawi as a special gesture," he added.
Defence cooperation is another area where there is promise of greater cooperation with these three countries, Naidu said.
"We have been able to successfully conclude negotiations during my visit for sending Indian army training team to Botswana, with whom we have had close defence relations since 1978," he said.
On his meetings with the Indian community in all the three countries, Naidu said he is happy to say that the Indian diaspora and NRIs in these countries are playing an important role in their economic development and are highly regarded by their leadership for their industry and hardwork.