‘India’s ties with Africa distinct from others’

April 7th, 2008 - 9:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 7 (IANS) India underlined its “distinct” approach towards Africa Monday, a day before its first-ever summit with African countries, and reiterated its support for the continent’s place in an expanded UN Security Council. “India’s ties with Africa are time-tested, distinct and different. It can’t be compared with those of any other country,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters in response to a question whether India’s engagement with Africa was to counter the growing Chinese presence in the continent.

He underlined India’s unique approach towards Africa that aims at empowerment of the African people through capacity building and skills development as opposed to commerce-driven approach of some countries.

Ten heads of state and government are among the leaders of 14 African countries who will attend the first India-Africa summit April 8-9 that seeks forge a more contemporary partnership in key areas like trade, energy and cooperation on global issues like the UN reforms, terrorism and climate change.

“India is helping Africa develop its own infrastructure and in value addition of its resources. India believes in the philosophy of jointly developing resources to the mutual benefit of both India and Africa,” Sharma stressed.

“Wherever Indian private sector or public sector enterprises have gone in Africa, they are creating opportunities for the African people to be employed in these projects,” he said after a meeting of the foreign ministers of 14 African countries that are participating in the first-ever India-Africa Forum Summit beginning Tuesday.

“This scepticism originates from those who are not adequately informed about the history of India-Africa engagement,” Sharma said while stressing that India has no vested interests in Africa but is guided by the overarching desire to empower the continent and its people.

While bilateral trade between India and Africa is growing and is estimated to be around $30 billion, it is still half of the China-Africa trade. China’s presence in the hydrocarbon sector in Africa far surpasses that of India.

To illustrate India’s development-centred approach, Sharma alluded to India-assisted Pan-African e-network that seeks to digitally connect 53 countries of the African Union by linking universities and super-speciality hospitals in India and Africa.

“All African countries acknowledge India’s steadfast support to Africa’s development,” he said.

The summit will culminate in an Africa-India framework for cooperation and a Delhi Declaration that will include an action plan for deepening India’s strategic and economic engagement with the resource-rich continent.

“There is complete agreement between India and the African leadership on the steps needed to consolidate the partnership. Two documents have been frozen and finalized, which will be unveiled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the end of the summit Wednesday,” said Sharma.

“The summit is not only historic, but will also give a new dimension and direction to the partnership that is evolving between India and Africa,” he said.

“India will support the African Union consensus on African nations’ candidate for the UN Security Council,” Sharma said.

“There has been a unanimity in African position at the country-level and at the level of regional communities for India’s rightful place as the world’s largest democracy in an expanded UN Security Council,” he said.

The 53-nation African Union is crucial to the success of any plan to expand the UN Security Council. India is trying to reach an understanding with African leaders on presenting a common plan, along with other G4 countries including Japan, Germany and Brazil, for an expansion of the UN council.

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