India asks Africa to fight piracy, backs its democratic upsurge

May 26th, 2011 - 11:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Addis Ababa, May 26 (IANS) Giving a contemporary and strategic cast to India’s growing relationship with Africa, Manmohan Singh, in the first address by an Indian prime minister to the Ethiopian parliament, Thursday pushed for democratic change in the continent and made a strong pitch for joint fight against piracy and terrorism under the aegis of the UN.

“The winds of change are blowing in West Asia and North Africa. We believe it is the right of all peoples to determine their own destiny and choose their own path of development,” Manmohan Singh told the joint session of the 547-strong Ethiopian Parliament.

He was alluding to pro-change and pro-democracy popular movements that have swept several North African nations for the last few months, a paradigm change that coincides with the continent’s emergence as a growth pole of the world economy.

“International actions must be based on the rule of law and be strictly within the framework of United Nations resolutions. We support the efforts of the United Nations in bringing peace and stability to the region,” Manmohan Singh said. It was an oblique reference to India’s unease with the intensified campaign by NATO to launch air strikes on Libya against the regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi.

At the end of the second India-Africa Forum Summit, Manmohan Singh had Tuesday pledged India’s support for the African Union’s position on the Libyan crisis and expressed New Delhi’s opposition to the air bombing of Libya.

Seeking to add strategic depth to India’s relations with Africa, Manmohan Singh also called for jointly combating the twin scourge of terrorism and piracy in the Indian Ocean region.

“The Horn of Africa is today faced with threats from piracy and terrorism. International piracy in the Red Sea and off the coast of Somalia has become a well-organised industry,” he said.

“It is important that the United Nations takes the lead in developing a comprehensive and effective response to this threat,” he said. In the past few months, India has borne the brunt of piracy off the Somalia coast with pirates kidnapping several Indians and demanding hefty ransoms.

“As a littoral state of the Indian Ocean, India is ready to work with Ethiopia and other African countries in this regard. We would like the Indian Ocean to remain a secure link between Asian and Africa through which international maritime trade can take place unhindered.”

Manmohan Singh also pushed vigorously for the reform of international institutions of governance, including the reform of the UN Security Council, an issue that figured prominently in discussions between India and Africa at the two-day summit that concluded here Wednesday.

“The changing world order calls for corresponding changes in the structure of institutions of global governance, whether these are international institutions or the international monetary system or the United Nations Security Council,” he said.

“These are issues which have to be tackled and resolved,” he said while thanking Ethiopia for its support for India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the Security Council. At the summit, both India and Africa had backed each other’s claim for a permanent seat in the Security Council.

In the 30-minute speech, punctuated by intermittent applause, Manmohan Singh described Ethiopia as “the cradle of human civilisation” and exhorted this landlocked country of 85 million people to leverage its credentials to “shape a new vision for Africa’s prosperity and development”.

A day after he held bilateral talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and called for scaling up Indian investments in Ethiopia to $10 billion by 2015, Manmohan Singh said: “Ethiopia has become one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. Ethiopia is a magnet for foreign investment.”

“The voice of Ethiopia is heard with respect. Addis Ababa, the new flower, has become the diplomatic capital of Africa,” he said to much applause from Ethiopian parliamentarians, dressed in traditional attire, who had gathered in full strength to hear the Indian prime minister. This is only the second time Manmohan Singh has addressed a parliament in an African country. He addressed the Nigerian National Assembly in 2007.

During bilateral talks, Manmohan Singh Wednesday had pledged $300 million for an Ethiopia-Djibouti rail link and announced new research and capacity-building research institutions in the areas of agriculture, sugar and textiles.

Rejecting charges of Indian farming companies indulging in land grab, Zenawi invited Indian companies to invest in land in his country and called for scaling up bilateral trade to $1 billion.

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