India says no race with China, strengthens ties with Africa

April 9th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) India Wednesday ended its first summit with Africa by stressing that it was not in competition with China in the continent, as the two sides firmed up a blueprint to intensify their partnership and declared support for each other in an expanded UN Security Council. Two documents - the Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation - adopted at the end of the summit flesh out a vision of the India-Africa partnership and cooperation in the 21st century.

The all-encompassing framework of cooperation includes close collaboration in areas ranging from agriculture, food security, technology and trade to energy, capacity-building and cooperation on global issues like the UN reforms, climate change, terrorism and multilateral trade negotiations.

To illustrate India’s approach towards Africa as one that centres on technology transfers and human resource development, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered New Delhi’s assistance to usher in a green revolution in Africa through holistic capacity building in agricultural production, storage and transportation.

“We are not in any race or competition with China or any other country. The desire of India and Africa to work together is not new,” Manmohan Singh told reporters at a joint press conference with leaders and representatives of 14 African countries who participated in the India-Africa Forum Summit.

“We don’t seek to impose any pattern in Africa. It’s for the African people to decide on their future,” Manmohan Singh replied when an African journalist asked him to compare India’s approach towards Africa with that of other Western powers and China.

“We are willing to offer whatever help we can to build capabilities in Africa. We share a colonial past and have been partners for a long time,” he said.

The market access plans announced Tuesday were aimed at building African capacities and economies, he said.

The two sides agreed to meet every three years and to draw up a joint plan of action and an appropriate mechanism to implement the framework for cooperation within a year. The next summit would be held in 2011 in Africa.

“India stands committed to work together with Africa to strengthen our cooperation in every possible way. We wish to be partners in Africa’s resurgence,” Manmohan Singh said.

“We hope that this summit has enabled to convey to the people of Africa India’s readiness to be a partner in their quest for stability, peace and prosperity.”

Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikewete, who is also president of the 53-nation African Union, underlined the need for India and Africa to become stronger partners in all areas and reaffirmed the continent’s support for India’s place in an expanded UN Security Council. He also underlined closer collaboration between India and Africa to address pressing problems of food security and rising global inflation.

“Africa and India should have permanent representation in an expanded UN Security Council. We have reaffirmed our commitment to work together so that India can get in and Africa can get in (the Security council),” he said.

Manmohan Singh had Tuesday announced a slew of measures aimed at invigorating ties with Africa. These include preferential market access to 34 least developed African countries, more than doubling lines of credit to $5.4 billion over the next five years and increasing the ‘Aid to Africa’ budget by investing over half a billion dollars in capacity building and human resource development projects.

The market access - a long-standing African demand that was lauded by leaders from many African countries - will boost African exports ranging from cotton cocoa and aluminium to copper ores, cashew nuts and non-industrial demands.

Other key Indian initiatives include more opportunities for African students in India.

This blend of enhanced credit package and human resource development aimed at the empowerment of Africa could prove to be an effective counter against China’s growing economic clout in the African continent.

India’s trade with Africa is estimated to be around $30 billion, which is half of China’s $56 billion with the continent. But experts say India’s development-centric approach will provide it an edge in the long run.

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