Africa a frontier of avenues: Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses during the inauguration of India Africa Friendship Rose Garden in New Delhi on Sunday.
A day ahead of the India-Africa Forum Summit, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday termed Africa 'a frontier of new opportunities'. India also pitched for permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for itself and Africa. It said it's "inconceivable" and "incomprehensible" that the two sides are not permanent members of the UNSC.

In his monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat', Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the historic ties between India and Africa and said India and Africa collectively constitute one-third of world population. He said this is the first that an event of such a big scale is being held on Indian soil.

Leaders of 54 African countries and Unions have been invited to the summit, which will be held from October 26 to 29 in New Delhi. "Outside Africa, this is the biggest convention," Modi said.

Around 50 African countries are expected to take part with most of them represented by their heads of state or government in the event, to be inaugurated by Modi. "It is said that hundreds of thousands of years ago, this (India and Africa) was a single land mass. Later, due to the Indian Ocean, it split into two," said Modi, adding: "There are a lot of similarities between us. Around 2.7 million Indians have been living in Africa for a long time." Modi said India and Africa have economic, cultural and political ties, but the biggest factor is the education provided by India to the African youth.

Around 25,000 African students have got education in India and political leaders of a number of African countries are India-educated, he added. Inaugurating a rose garden dedicated to India-Africa friendship in Delhi's diplomatic enclave, Swaraj described Africa 'India's extended neighbourhood'. "Our partnership with Africa is unique and dates back to our civilisational contacts through ancient seafarers, traders, intellectuals and monks. Today as one of the fastest growing (large) economies in Asia, India is attaching the utmost importance to its economic engagement with African countries."

India has significant political, strategic and economic stakes in engaging with Africa. Africa is resource-rich, and has moved from being an under-developed continent to having several fast-growing economies, and new democracies.

There are key shared interests in battling global terrorism, and piracy in the Indian Ocean. India's ambition to become a permanent member of the UNSC makes it imperative that it engages with all 54 countries of the African continent. New Delhi would also want a stronger partnership with Africa on climate change ahead of the climate change talks in Paris.

Underlining substantial trade and investments, Swaraj said: "We are interested in Africa's economic growth and its integration with global economy." Over the past 15 years, India-Africa trade has risen 20 times to touch $70 billion. Indian investment in Africa is $30-35 billion.

India has given concessional credit of $7.4 billion to Africa, of which $3.5 billion has been disbursed. The credit lines have helped create 137 projects in 41 countries. How can this engagement be taken forward? This is one question the summit will seek to answer.

Two helicopters will be deployed round-the-clock as part of security arrangement for the four-day event.

INDIA-AFRICA TIES: A FACTSHEET

  • 20 times is the rise of India-Africa trade in the past 15 years

     
  • $ 70 bn is current India-Africa trade; China-Africa trade is $200 bn

     
  • $30-35 bn Estimated Indian investments in Africa

     
  • $ 7.4 bn Concessional credit India has given to African countries

     
  • 40,000 Scholarships provided by India to African students since the first India-Africa Summit in 2008

     
  • 2.7 million Indian diaspora in Africa

     
  • Africa has large tracts of arable land; 26,000 km of coastline important in strategic terms and for trade

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