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
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.