Ansari to attend ‘birthday’ of South Sudan

July 6th, 2011 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) Vice President Hamid Ansari will Saturday represent India at the celebrations to mark the formal birth of Africa’s newest nation South Sudan, an oil-rich country where New Delhi plans to set up a host of capacity building projects.

Accompanied by senior officials, Ansari will leave for Juba, the capital of the new country, Friday. The Republic of South Sudan will officially celebrate the founding of the nation July 9 (Saturday) in Juba. The celebrations will be attended by a host of world leaders, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Ansari is expected to meet South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and pledge India’s support for the development of the world’s newest nation.

The independence celebration is being held six months after South Sudan’s residents voted with an overwhelming majority in a UN-backed referendum January to secede from the rest of Sudan. The referendum was the climax of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2005 that ended decades of civil war between northern and southern Sudan.

India has welcomed the results of the January referendum in which southern Sudan voted for independence and plans to help South Sudan, whose territory is roughly the size of France, with a host of infrastructure and capacity building projects.

India already has a consulate in Juba. During his visit, Ansari is expected to announce that the consulate will be upgraded to an embassy.

Sandeep Shastri, pro-vice chancellor of Bangalore’s Jain University, is already helping South Sudan draft its first constitution.

Armed with expertise in creating food security for the world’s second most populous nation, India is keen to play a critical role in the agricultural transformation of South Sudan and help in kindred areas like horticulture and animal husbandry, officials said. A team from New Delhi is expected to visit Juba for assessing the developmental needs of the new country and the role India can play in this process.

When South Sudan’s special envoy and minister Priscilla Joseph Kuch visited New Delhi in April, she said the newly-created country would honour all its contracts for stakes in oil wells with Indian entities within its territory.

India, on its part, assured South Sudan that it will be its “development partner” and provide all kinds of assistance in development, capacity building and infrastructure.

India’s ONGC Videsh Limited has stakes in several wells in Sudan, with production now standing at 160,000 barrels per day. Out of this, 100,000 barrels per day of production are of well now falling within South Sudan.

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