Pres­i­dent, PM May Visit Africa to Boost So­cio-eco­nomic Ties

PM might travel in July and con­nect with the In­dian di­as­pora in some of these na­tions

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Di­pan­jan Roy.Chaud­hury @times­group.com

New Delhi: Lit­tle over six months af­ter the mega Indo-Africa sum­mit here that saw the par­tic­i­pa­tion of over 40 heads of state, the Modi gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing for key vis­its by the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter who would crisscross the con­ti­nent over the next few months to el­e­vate part­ner­ships. While Vice Pres­i­dent Hamid An­sari is plan­ning trips to the nort- hern part of Africa in the near fu­ture, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi is plan­ning trips to East­ern and South­ern Africa dur­ing the next few months, peo­ple familiar with the mat­ter told ET. It has been learnt that the PM might travel in July, and will be con­nect­ing with the In­dian di­as­pora in some of these coun­tries, many of whom have mi­grated from Gu­jarat in the past.

Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukher­jee is likely to travel to key and old part­ners in West­ern Africa. "The dates and des­ti­na­tions of the big trips are still be­ing fi­nalised. Avail­abil­ity of hosts are a key fac­tor in fi­nal­is­ing the des­ti­na­tions," one of the per­sons said with­out di­vulging de­tails. There are spec­u­la­tions that Mukher­jee might travel to oil-rich Nige­ria and Ghana, a vi­brant democ­racy and the most sta­ble na­tion in West Afri- ca. While for­eign min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj had trav­elled to few African na­tions, in­clud­ing South Africa and Egypt since May 2014, she will make maiden trips to Africa, a con­ti­nent that will not only play a key

role in Delhi's UNSC membership am­bi­tions but also in its fight against ter­ror, piracy and sta­bil­ity in the In­dian Ocean be­sides be­ing the des­ti­na­tion for nat­u­ral re­sources and out­ward in­vest­ments.

An­sari had ear­lier planned to travel to Morocco and Sene­gal in April sec­ond week, but the visit was post­poned due to sched­ul­ing is­sues of the hosts and could now take place in May, de­pend­ing on the Par­lia­ment ses­sion. Morocco is key counter-ter­ror part­ner for In­dia in North Africa amid Rabat's de-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing train­ing of imams of var­i­ous coun­tries. Delhi is also eye­ing in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor in Morocco, in­clud­ing build­ing rail­way net­work in that coun­try.

Even as Delhi is ex­pand­ing its eco­nomic as­sis­tance across African na­tions and the con­ti­nent ac­counts for 50% of the to­tal Line of Credit ex­tended by In­dia, de­fence and se­cu­rity part­ner­ships are no longer taboo. "Some of these big vis­its by In­dian lead­ers will see firm­ing up of de­fence pro­grammes in­clud­ing train­ing and ex­change of mil­i­tary per­son­nel. Today, there is less hes­i­ta­tion on In­dia's part to in­volve it­self in de­fence mat­ters and part­ner­ships in Africa as civil wars are on the de­cline in the con­ti­nent," a source noted.

It may be re­called that coun­tries where the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent and the PM are plan­ning to visit had their lead­ers among oth­ers who were present at the third edi­tion of In­dia-Africa sum­mit here last Oc­to­ber when Modi an­nounced a fresh Line of Credit (LoC) of $10 bn for the con­ti­nent. The Ex­port Im­port Bank of In­dia had ear­lier ex­tended 140 LoCs cov­er­ing 41 African coun­tries, amount­ing to credit com­mit­ment of $ 7.23 bil­lion. Some of the ma­jor sec­tors cov­ered un­der LoC are Power, Sugar, Agri­cul­ture, Roads & Trans­port and En­gi­neer­ing.

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