India, Africa should build ‘equitable global economy’: PM

April 8th, 2008 - 3:39 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
(Second Lead)

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The first India-Africa Summit began Tuesday with a call from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to work closely with Africa to build a “more equitable global economy and polity” and his announcement of preferential market access for least developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa. Under the duty free tariff preference scheme, India will unilaterally provide preferential market access for exports to all the 50 least developed countries. In addition, India has also decided to increase the line of credit to Africa from $2.15 billion to $9.7 billion.

In his inaugural address at the two-day summit, attended by leaders of 14 African countries including 10 heads of state and government, Manmohan Singh called for turning the 21st century into a “century of Asia and Africa”.

Describing Africa as “our mother continent” and the “land of awakening”, he stressed on the common values shared by the leadership of India and Africa. “We share a common societal commitment to pluralism, to inclusiveness and to the creation of a world that is fair to all its inhabitants.”

He felt the “shared vision” should help the two sides to work together to face the vital challenges before them.

“No one understands better than India and Africa the imperative need for global institutions to reflect current realities and to build a more equitable global economy and polity,” the prime minister said.

India’s commitment for overall development and progress, he said, was steadfast as it was keen to see Africa find its rightful place in the world.

“The time has come to create a new architecture for our engagement in the 21st century. We visualise a partnership that is anchored in the fundamental principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit.

“Working together, the two billion people of India and Africa can set an example of fruitful cooperation in the developing world,” Manmohan Singh told the African leaders.

He said there was much to gain from the India-Africa partnership, which he stressed should not be limited to an interaction between governments but also reach to an engagement between the widest possible sections.

The scheme announced by the prime minister will cover 94 percent of India’s total tariff lines. Specifically, it will provide preferential market access on tariff lines that comprise 92.5 percent of global exports of all least developed countries, said a government statement.

Products like cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts, cane sugar, readymade garments, fish-fillets and non industrial diamonds, which are said to be of “immediate interest” to Africa will be covered under the scheme.

The summit seeks to forge a more contemporary partnership in key areas of trade and energy. The two sides are keen to work closely on important global issues like the proposed UN reforms, fight against terrorism and global warming.

Welcoming the guests from Africa earlier, Minister Of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said the summit would help the two sides establish a “dynamic partnership”.

A film on India-Africa ties would be screened later for African leaders and delegates.

The foreign ministers of India and Africa who met Monday have finalised a draft declaration that will be unveiled by the leaders Wednesday. The declaration has tried to identify areas of potential growth where both sides could work closely for mutual benefit.

Among those attending are Presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uganda), Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (Tanzania), Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria), Joseph Kabila Kabange (Congo), John Agyekum Kufuor (Ghana) and Maitre Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal) and Prime Ministers Tertius Zongo (Burkina Faso), Meles Zenawi (Ethiopia) and Mwai Kibaki (Kenya).

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