Obama visit: India, US to partner in Africa anti-poverty drive

October 31st, 2010 - 5:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Manish Chand
New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) When President Barack Obama sits down for talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh next week, India and the US will look to joining hands in spurring a green revolution and health uplift in Africa - a partnership that has the potential to counter China’s growing clout in the oil-rich continent.

“India and the US will explore the principles and parameters of jointly working together in Africa,” a senior Indian official told IANS, adding that collaborating in Africa figured prominently in recent high-level discussions between the two sides.

“The US appreciates the Indian experience of working in Africa in human resource development and food security. The US too has vital stakes in these areas,” said the official.

Obama is expected to flag off these areas of cooperation during his address to top corporate honchos in Mumbai Nov 6 and later when he meets Manmohan Singh for official talks in New Delhi Nov 8.

Africa will also figure in the discussions when the two leaders will discuss maritime security and piracy, part of a larger collaboration on counter-terrorism.

The key areas of collaboration that are being discussed include pooling together resources and research to spawn a second green revolution and developing a coordinated strategy for combating HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, said officials.

The two sides also plan to collaborate in the development of non-conventional sources of energy such as solar and wind energy and sharing their experience in e-learning and the India-aided Pan Africa e-network that brings the benefits of tele-education and tele-medicine to Africans.

Poverty eradication in Africa is high on the global agenda of Obama, the first African American president of the US who was born to a Kenyan father. In his whirlwind visit to African countries last year, Obama described himself as having “Africa in his blood” as he spoke of the possibilities of the continent’s emancipation from the scourge of poverty and disease.

With his deep admiration for Mahatma Gandhi and for India’s experience in poverty reduction, Obama is open to constructive partnerships with likeminded countries like India in this area, said a US official.

Although the two sides officially deny competition with China as a motive animating their partnership, R.K. Bhatia, India’s former high commissioner to South Africa, said the Americans often voiced apprehensions about Beijing’s activities in Africa during his interactions with US envoys posted in African capitals.

“They definitely will be talking about how the two large democracies can spread the arc of democracy and economic growth,” Bhatia told IANS.

Against the backdrop of the surging Chinese influence in Africa, the US and some of the Western powers find themselves drawn to the cost-effective and transformational model of India’s engagement with Africa that hinges on trade, technology transfer, human resource development and lines of credit for African-owned infrastructure projects.

On the other hand, China’s $108-billion bilateral trade, billions of dollars in aid, the practice of befriending dictatorial regimes and its focus on extractive resources have aroused much concern in key Western capitals.

It’s not the US alone but its key ally Japan also held a maiden dialogue with India early in October on exploring cooperation in Africa. The Indian side was led by Gurjit Singh, joint secretary in charge of west and south Africa. The dialogue focused on sharing experiences of working in Africa, specially in areas of developmental cooperation, an official told IANS.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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