Gaddafi, Mubarak to skip India-Africa summit

April 1st, 2008 - 5:50 pm ICT by admin  

By Manish Chand
New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) Libya’s charismatic leader Muammar Gaddafi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be missing from the first-ever India-Africa Forum Summit, beginning here April 8, that is expected to flag off a new chapter in the centuries-old relationship between the two sides. Gaddafi, Libya’s maverick leader who has been at the helm in his oil-rich country for over three decades, could have added a dash of colour to the summit that is expected to launch an action plan to firm up economic and strategic partnership between India and Africa.

Gaddafi, one of the more colourful political figures in Africa and the Arab world, is known to greet foreign visitors in a traditional Bedouin tent, and likes to spend long periods in the desert.

Famous for his Green Book that encapsulates his ideas of home-grown socialism, Gaddafi is back in the global reckoning after the US removed sanctions on doing business with Libya in 2004 and removed it from a US list of terrorism sponsors in 2003.

France became the first Western country to welcome Gaddafi in December last year since he ended Libya’s diplomatic isolation five years ago by renouncing terrorism and dismantling the country’s nuclear programme.

Relations between India and Libya have acquired a new momentum in the last few years with some of leading Indian companies entrenched in the Libyan energy, hydrocarbon, power, telecommunication and IT sectors. Indian oil companies have already obtained exploration licences for six oil blocks in Libya.

Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for nearly three decades, will also not be able to come for the summit, an official source, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

He will come later in the year for a bilateral visit, the source added. Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abu al-Naja will represent Egypt at the meeting.

India has invited leaders of 14 African countries, who have been chosen by the African Union to represent the entire continent, for the summit.

Heads of the other 12 countries - South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Senegal, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania - are expected to be present at the summit.

Many experts see the India-Africa Summit as a diplomatic exercise by New Delhi to counter the increasing economic clout of China in the oil-rich African countries.

Indian officials, however, emphasise that India is not in competition with any other country in Africa as its relations with the continent are based on mutual empowerment through trade, technology and human resource development.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a conclave last month that the summit, besides enhancing economic ties, would help the two sides to jointly address international challenges of terrorism and climate change, as well reforms of the United Nations.

“India and Africa are natural allies and we eagerly look forward to a comprehensive engagement with Africa, which has always enjoyed an important position in our foreign policy priorities,” Mukherjee said.

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