India unveils $5 bn Africa surge, rejects race with China (Second Lead)

May 24th, 2011 - 10:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Addis Ababa, May 24 (IANS) Rejecting any race with China, India Tuesday announced a massive $5 billion credit line for Africa for the next three years and unveiled a host of new institutions for training and capacity building, setting the stage for forging a “contemporary and modern” partnership with the resource-rich continent.

Seeking to consolidate “a partnership that is unique, special and between equals,” India and Africa backed each other’s “rightful claim” for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and for their place in institutions of global economic governance.

Striking a note of Afro-optimism, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Africa as “a major growth pole of the world” and sought “a new solidarity” with developing African countries for pushing the reform of global institutions, including the UN Security Council for which India is a leading contender.

“Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world in the 21st century. We will work with Africa to enable it to realize its potential,” Manmohan Singh told leaders of 15 African countries representing the continent at the opening session of the two-day 2nd Africa-India Forum Summit that began here in the morning.

“We believe that a new vision is required for Africa’s development and participation in global affairs,” the prime minister said, adding that India is keen to share its experience in nation-building with developing countries.

Pointing out that India and Africa are on “the right side of history,” Manmohan Singh said: “We will offer $5 billion for the next three years under lines of credit to help achieve development goals in Africa.”

The announcement marks an increase of $1.6 billion in Indian lines of credit on the $5.4 billion announced by India at the first forum summit in New Delhi in 2008 for the period 2009-2014. India has already spent $2 billion on a slew of projects in Africa.

Manmohan Singh also announced a host of initiatives designed to expand India’s footprint in Africa that included $300 million for the development of a new Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line.

With capacity building and human resource development being the core of India’s development-centric engagement with Africa, Manmohan Singh announced the establishment of new institutions at a pan-African level. These include an India-Africa Food Processing Cluster, an India-Africa Integrated Textiles Cluster, an India-Africa Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting, an India-Africa University of Life and Earth Sciences and an India-Africa Institute for Rural Development.

It also includes supporting the establishment of an unique India-Africa Virtual University. India pledged 10,000 scholarships for this proposed university that will be available for African students.

In the area of education and skill development, where India has carved a niche for itself in Africa against resource-focused diplomacy of China, Manmohan Singh announced 400 more scholarships for African graduates and 500 more training positions under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC).

“We will thus offer 2,500 ITEC training positions every year for the next three years. Our total commitment for the next three years by way of scholarships to African students will stand at more than 22,000,” Manmohan Singh said to applause from African leaders at the African Union headquarters.

With India’s trade touching $50 billion and a vast potential that remains to be tapped, Manmohan Singh suggested an India-Africa Business Council that will bring together chief executive officers of major corporations from both sides. The prime minister also offered to increase the access of African airlines to Indian cities to help expand business and people-to-people linkages.

The entire array of capacity building measures and initiatives announced by India has distinguished its engagement with the continent from that of China’s surge that is focused on massive infrastructure projects and extraction of hydrocarbons and mineral resources.

Backing African solutions for African problems, Manmohan Singh also pledged $2 million for the African Union Mission in Somalia.

With the West trying to conjure up an arena of competition between India and China in Africa, New Delhi was firm in underlining its unique approach based on acting in “accordance with African needs and requests”.

“We are in no race. All this talk of race is a figment of the imagination,” Vivek Katju, secretary (West) in charge of Africa in India’s external affairs ministry told reporters here.

“We have a direct relationship with Africa that is at the bilateral, regional and continental level. We are guided by the priorities of Africa act in response to Africa’s needs and requests,” he said.

In view of the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly that is expected to focus on UN reforms, Manmohan Singh also made a strong pitch for reform of global political and economic institutions, including the UN Security Council for which India needs Africa’s support.

“The current international economic and political system is far from easy, particularly for developing countries. The world faces new challenges in assuring food and energy security,” he said, adding: “Global institutions of governance are outmoded and under stress.”

“We, therefore, need a new spirit of solidarity among developing countries,” the prime minister stressed.

India’s pitch for UN reforms and its emphasis on capacity building in Africa found reciprocal enthusiasm from African leaders. “There was a general expression that both India and Africa must find their rightful place in the UN Security Council and in international institutions of governance,” Katju said.

‘We value India’s cooperation positively. There is equality in international exchanges. Therefore, the strategic cooperation between India and Africa is in response to imbalances in the world’s economic system,’ Teodore Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea and chairperson of the African Union, said.

“We call for the ceasing of hostilities, terrorism, and piracy,” he added.

“Africa is paying special attention to developing relations with emerging powers of the South. Our common aim is to promote multilateralism as a paradigm in international relations,’ Jean Ping, chairperson of the African Union Commission, said at the plenary of the summit.

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