Address of External Affairs Minister at the ‘Africa Day’ Lecture on “India-Africa Relations”

26/05/2010

Ambassdor Balumuene, Dean of the African Diplomatic corps,
Ambassador S.J.S.Chhatwal, Governing Body Member, Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA),
Shri Sudhir Devare, Director General, ICWA,
Shri Vivek Katju, Secretary(West), Ministry of External Affairs,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners of African Missions in New Delhi,
Learned colleagues from the academia,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I extend my heartiest congratulations on the important occasion of Africa Day, which was commemorated yesterday. The founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963 marked a resurgence of African identify, to which India's commitment has been steadfast.

I would also like to acknowledge the positive role played by the Indian Council of World Affairs, which has worked closely with the Ministry of External Affairs, to reintroduce the Africa Day Lecture. This is another manifestation of our unwavering commitment to our African brothers and sisters.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Today I wish to share some thoughts on India’s relations with Africa. Since our independence, Africa has always occupied a very special place in the minds of the Indian leadership. Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru had said in 1955 “it is up to Asia to help Africa to the best of her ability because we are sister continents". He went on to say in 1961 that “I think the whole world owes it to the African people not to hinder them, but to help them in freedom in every way." Our common struggle against colonialism provides the historical underpinning of our special relationship. Africa has always been, and rightly so, a cornerstone of our foreign policy.

Today our relations have transformed into a genuine long-term partnership. With India’s sustained economic growth over the last two decades and political consolidation across Africa, our cooperation has flourished and now encompasses all priority sectors integral to the developmental goals of Africa in the 21st century. We have to jointly face the challenges of a rapidly changing, globalised world.
India’s relationship with Africa was given a new structure during the First India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in April 2008. At this Summit, leaders of India and Africa designed a programme of cooperation for a structured interaction in a variety of areas, which include human resources, capacity building, education, science and technology, agricultural productivity and food security, industrial growth including the small and medium enterprises sector, health and communications and information technology.

These programmes were extensively deliberated with our African partners through the African Union and I am happy that we have concluded the Action Plan of Cooperation in March this year. We have decided to establish 19 India-Africa institutions, including (i) India Africa Institute of Foreign Trade; (ii) India Africa Diamond Institute; (iii) India Africa Institute of Educational Planning and Administration; and (iv) India Africa Institute of Information Technology.

Government of India’s Pan African e-Network Project is another good example of India-Africa partnership. I am very happy to learn that 47 countries have already joined this Project to provide quality tele-education and tele-medicine.
Our bilateral trade with Africa is on the upswing, having grown from US$3 billion in 2000-01 to US$39.3 billion in 2008-09. I feel that there is considerable potential for further growth and expansion. Through the Government’s ‘Focus Africa programme’, we are actively encouraging the private sector to seriously look at the African market. We are also encouraging enhanced Business-to-Business interactions between the Chambers of Commerce and trade bodies on either side. On our part, we have offered a Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme for Least Developed Countries, 34 of whom are in Africa, to enable them to gain preferential access to the Indian market. 16 of these countries have already started availing benefits under this Scheme.

Our Official Developmental Assistance in the form of concessional Lines of Credit (LOCs) and Grants-in-Aid continue to be important instruments for supporting infrastructure and development projects as prioritized by the African nations themselves. Over the next five years, an amount of US$5.4 billion, i.e., US$1.1 billion per year has been earmarked for Africa in the form of credits and another US$ 500 million as Grants.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

In a rapidly changing world, an important dimension of India-Africa Partnership is our meeting of minds on pressing global issues. These issues include the reform of the United Nations, combating International Terrorism, Climate Change, WTO, reform of international financial institutions, combating diseases, eradication of hunger and poverty and promotion of inclusive democratic societies and polities.

The current global architecture is many decades old and is no longer capable of adequately meeting the increasing challenges before us. The United Nations, in particular, needs to be reformed and strengthened. The absence of Africa and countries like India from the permanent membership of the UN Security Council makes the body unrepresentative and undemocratic. India strongly supports Africa’s demand to get its due role as permanent members of the Security Council. We appreciate the widespread support of African countries for India's permanent membership of the Security Council.
Both India and the African Union have advocated expansion of the Security Council in both its permanent and non-permanent categories. We both emphasize that the new permanent members of the Security Council should have the same rights and responsibilities as the existing permanent members, though the G-4 proposal envisages this to be a step-by-step process. Given that text-based inter-governmental negotiations on UN reform will start in the UN General Assembly on 1st June 2010, we now need, more than ever, to work together to ensure stronger presence of the developing world in the UN Security Council.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, all of us are living under the shadow of the threats posed by the scourge of International Terrorism. No part of the world can claim to be immune from its tentacles. Continuing terrorist attacks in various parts of the world are a reminder that the international community needs greater cooperation and stronger collective action to defeat terrorism. India had proposed a draft for the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in 1996, whose adoption will demonstrate the strong will of the international community to act unitedly against terrorists. Most of the differences over the draft have since been reconciled. The remaining issues can be resolved if the international community shows sufficient political will. We particularly look forward to working with Africa for early adoption of the Convention. We also need to evolve a coordinated response for tackling the menace of Piracy in the Indian Ocean in order to safeguard our sea routes and ensure uninterrupted movement of goods and people.
The WTO has the responsibility to ensure that developing countries, especially the least developed countries, secure a proper share in the growth of international trade, commensurate with the needs of their economic development. That is why the development dimension of the Doha Round is especially important and the reason why market access gains cannot be the sole touchstone of the Round. Early, balanced and successful conclusion of the Doha Round, with development at the core of its heart, will benefit developing countries which is particularly important in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis of unprecedented reach and its concomitant adverse effects on the availability of trade finance.

The recent global economic meltdown points towards the urgent need for bringing about reforms in the international financial institutions, in which the interests of the developing countries should be fully safeguarded. The resilience of the economies of Asia and Africa even in these turbulent times could offer some lessons to global financial planners.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me conclude by saying that I am deeply convinced that together with the rise of Asia, it is the emergence of Africa that will bring about the most far-reaching changes in the existing world order. Back in 1963, Pandit Nehru had said that the emergence of Africa is “a major event in history and, what is more, it is going to play an ever-growing part in the coming years. We in India have naturally welcomed it." I only need add here, on Africa Day today, that I find Africa’s revival and growth an extremely gratifying and happy development that augurs well for India and the world. We in India are proud to be partners in Africa’s growth. It is a privilege to cooperate and work with Africa’s developmental projects, and I would like to particularly thank my African friends present here for giving us to opportunity to do so. We remain firmly committed to working closely with Africa in order to help fulfil Africa’s developmental targets, and the aspirations of its people. We also look forward to working together on major global issues.

As we rejoice in Africa’s growth and development, let us pledge to make the coming decade the ‘Decade of India-Africa Partnership’.

Thank You.

New Delhi
May 26, 2010