India and Africa are natural allies: Mukherjee

March 21st, 2008 - 11:42 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) Describing India and Africa as “natural allies”, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday stressed closer ties not just economically, but also politically to jointly meet 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,” said Mukherjee, delivering the valedictory session of the fourth CII-Exim Bank India Africa business conclave.

Talking about the need for reforming the world body, he said, “The reform of the United Nations remains high on our agenda and we seek the support of the African countries for overall reforms, including democratization and expansion of the UN Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories.”

India also “looks forward” to cooperating with African nations on combating terrorism and urged that the conclusion of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism was important in this regard.

On climate change, he said, “We seek a convergence of per capita greenhouse gases emissions between the developed and the developing world. Transfer of technologies at affordable prices is a key factor in this process.

Similarly, he sought “continued support of African countries to ensure that the vision of the Doha Round as a developmental round becomes a reality”.

With Africa witnessing “far-reaching changes”, he said that India and Africa have been “in the process of providing a contemporary character to our relationship”.

There has been a five-fold increase in trade in the last five years from $5 billion in 2001-2 to nearly $25 billion in 2006-7, excluding the import of gold bullion.

India has already signed 29 trade agreements and in the exploring the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and a Preferential Trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union.

Mukherjee cited the Pan African e-network as a demonstration India’s effort to share its progress in the knowledge sector.

Thirdly, he said, India will be increasing its bilateral and regional lines of credit, and our focus will be on fostering sustainable socio-economic development in our partner countries.

The chief guest of the valedictory session, Ghanian Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, said with regional economic integration gaining pace in Africa, India may find it profitable to build relations with the different economic blocs in the region. He urged Indian infrastructure companies to consider entering into partnerships based on equity rather than confining themselves to the build, operate and transfer model.

The three-day conclave was attended by 30 ministers and 600 delegates from 33 African countries.

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