India’s diplomacy in Central Africa on the upswingMarch 11th, 2008 - 5:10 pm ICT by admin
By Manish Chand
New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) In an apparent bid to catch up with China, India is set to ramp up its economic diplomacy in resource-rich Central Africa - a region that didn’t loom large on New Delhi’s radar till now - by signing two pacts with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Wednesday. Official sources told IANS that a joint commission declaration and an agreement for the Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) to set up a segment of the Pan-African e-network in the African country are to be signed.
The agreements follow talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and visiting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, who began his three-day trip to India Tuesday.
Brainchild of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the India-assisted Pan-African network, with its hub in Ethiopia, seeks to connect 54 African countries digitally and bring them benefits of Indian expertise in education and medicine.
The visit of the DRC minister is seen here as a “significant milestone” in India’s expanding relations with Central Africa, said a senior Indian official dealing with the region.
Following him will be President Joseph Kabila, who will reach New Delhi to attend the first India-Africa forum summit in April in which 14 African nations will participate.
“DRC is potentially the richest country in Africa. India has considerable stakes there. They want active collaboration with India in a wide spectrum of areas ranging from industry, energy to infrastructure and technologies,” the source said.
Over a decade ago, India shut down its mission in the DRC due to a civil war that has claimed more than three million lives. The country has three-fourth of the world’s copper reserves and a third of cobalt besides diamond mines and crude oil.
India reopened its mission in Kinshasa last year as the country showed signs of stability and economic recovery after a five-year civil war that ended in 2003. The 2006 elections, won by Kabila, son of slain leader Laurent Kabila, bolstered DRC’s efforts to boost development.
The DRC has also pressed India to participate in its expanding diamond industry, especially in areas of diamond processing and polishing.
India’s increasing engagement with DRC is indicative of a broader Indian diplomatic thrust in oil-rich Central Africa, which is aggressively courted by China.
China has struck lucrative energy deals in Angola, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Indian officials, however, prefer to downplay the growing Chinese presence in oil economies of Africa and stress that it is not in competition with any other country. Indians say their approach towards Africa is a win-win partnership.
ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of India’s oil major, is actively scouting for opportunities in the region. Stronger ties with the region will also link India more closely with 10 countries of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
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