India, Zambia promise to strengthen trade ties

January 6th, 2010 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

By Devirupa Mitra
Lusaka, Jan 6 (IANS) With India offering concessional credit to Zambia, the two countries have committed to strengthening their bilateral relations, especially in the fields of trade and investment.

Amid exuberant tribal dances and clinking of glasses, leaders of India and Zambia toasted each other Tuesday night to an “ever deepening” of relations, especially in trade and investment, during the highest level visit by an Indian leader in two decades.

The visiting Vice President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari and his entire delegation were invited to a state banquet hosted by his Zambian counterpart George Kunda at a five-star hotel in Lusaka. Ansari had arrived from Delhi Tuesday afternoon on the first leg of his three-nation Africa tour.

The state banquet began with a song from a Bollywood film, Salaam-e-Ishq, by an all-male Zambian choir. The ode to everlasting love was greeted with loud applause, especially from members of the Indian delegation and community.

The hall was filled to capacity with top Zambian officials and their spouses, as well as members of the Indian community.

After a Bharatnatyam recital by a member of the local Indian community, there was an exuberant display of energetic dance, which was punctuated by applause from the audience.

The Zambian leader began his speech talking about historic ties, as well as the close relations between the two countries.

He pointed out that there has been a sharp increase in imports from Zambia to India by 91 percent from 2004 to 2008, when it reached $226 million.

“The Zambian side have tried to provide a conducive environment for investments here by Indian companies,” said Kunda, pointing out that there has been some large investments by Indian public sector groups like BHEL and private conglomerates like the Tata Group.

Ansari said Zambia should take advantage of the lines of credit that India had announced after the India Africa Forum Summit in April 2008.

“We would like Zambia to take advantage of the new initiatives announced at the India-Africa Forum Summit, particularly in regard to concessional credit lines so as to promote trade between the two countries,” he said.

The vice president also urged Zambian companies to access funds provided by India under Preferential Trade Area Bank, the financial arm of Common Market for Eastern and Southern African States (Comesa).

Ansari — a former diplomat — ended his speech with a toast in Nyanja language which was received with loud approval. “Mulungu Adalise Zambia (God Bless Zambia),” he said.

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