More flights between India and Africa on the way

March 20th, 2008 - 9:37 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) Ahead of its summit with 14 African countries in April, India Thursday unveiled a plan to boost connectivity with that continent through a series of interlinking bilateral civil aviation arrangements. “Connectivity is very high on our agenda. We want more African airlines to come to India and more Indian carriers to fly to Africa,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, who addressed the 4th CII-led economic conclave with African countries, told reporters here.

“The connectivity issue will figure prominently in discussions at the forthcoming India-Africa summit in April. It will also be discussed bilaterally with leaders of African countries,” Sharma, a prime mover of Indian diplomacy in Africa, said.

“The government can nominate one or two airlines for each region. We have renewed an air service agreement with Ethiopia. You will see a visible change in this regard soon,” he said.

Earlier, speaking at the India-Africa Project Partnership conclave, in which 33 African countries are participating, Ghana Vice-President Alhaji Aliu Mahama said connectivity is a key problem that needs to be addressed to enhance economic engagement and to encourage more investment from small and medium enterprises.

Sharma also struck an upbeat note about the first-ever summit between India and 14 African countries to be held in April, saying it will provide an action plan to take bilateral ties to new heights.

“We have proposed an institutional framework to deepen the engagement. This summit will conclude with an action plan to open new pathways of cooperation between the two sides,” he said.

The minister stressed that India’s approach is different from others - a veiled reference to Chinese forays into the continent - as it is directed towards empowerment of Africa through human resource development and transfer of skills and technologies.

“India’s engagement with Africa is truly a sincere partnership. It’s firmly rooted in the common struggle against colonialism,” Sharma said while calling for “deepening and diversifying” economic ties between the two sides.

With China rapidly expanding its presence in Africa, Indian businesses are bracing for a major push in the continent with its win-win formula of low-cost technologies and mutual empowerment.

The three-day economic conclave, which began Wednesday, is likely to discuss 131 projects worth $10 billion that will focus on four main areas: technology, agriculture, human resources and energy.

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