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Address by MOS Dr Shashi Tharoor at the University of Mauritius on "India-Africa: Partners in Development"

Your Excellency, Dr. The Hon'ble Vasant Kumar Bunwaree, Minister of Education, Culture and Human Resources of the Government of the Republic of Mauritius
Honourable Cabinet Ministers of the Government of Mauritius, 
Sir Ramesh Jeewoolall, Chancellor of the University of Mauritius
Professor Sudarshan Jugessur, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Council of the University of Mauritius
Professor Soonil Rughooputh, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Mauritius 

Distinguished guests, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am greatly honoured to be asked to visit this historic building of the University of Mauritius. It is indeed a privilege to address a distinguished audience such as this on a subject which is close to my heart and which forms a central plank in the foreign policy of India. 

The buildings of the University of Mauritius are steeped in history and are as old as this place itself. It is also significant that some of the Indian Universities and the University of Mauritius have been linked through the bonds of academia, and more importantly have worked together to provide a platform towards addressing issues of common concern and to providing guidance and direction to the future leaders of the 21st century. 

I consider it a particular honour to be with you at a place where one of the highly respected Presidents of India, Professor A. P. J. Abdul Kalam had stood to address all of you when he had an inter-active session at this University in March 2006 during his State Visit to Mauritius. 

I have been in Mauritius now for a little under two days. The purpose of my visit was to participate in the Aapravasi Diwas - a historic date which is steeped in poignant memory. The Aapravasi Ghat has a moving tale cast in each of its bricks and stones. History is unforgiving if we do not remember those forefathers of ours who sacrificed all to bequeath to us what we enjoy today. We should never forget their labour and toil lest we disconnect ourselves from something which should be cherished and recalled for the larger good of mankind. I congratulate Mauritius - its Government and the people - for retelling the world the memory of a set of people who converted what would have been a difficult environment for them in what today is a heavenly paradise. As for Mauritius, I am charmed by its beauty, delighted by the warmth of its people and touched by the generosity and hospitality of my hosts. It has been indeed been a great pleasure being here. 

This meeting with all you is perhaps my last official engagement during my brief stay in this wonderful country. And the subject of the address is very appropriate. 

The India-Africa partnership has deep roots in history. Linked across the Indian Ocean, we have been neighbours and partners for thousands of years. There was regular interaction between communities and traders, especially from the West coast of Gujarat and parts of South India with Abyssinia, Somalia, Mombasa, Zanzibar and even Mozambique. These communities and groups played significant roles in the histories of both India and Africa. The advent of the Europeans and the colonial period disturbed these interactions but could not disrupt them. Later, both India and Africa shared the pain of subjugation and the joys of freedom and liberation. We worked shoulder to shoulder in the fight against apartheid and racial discrimination. Satyagraha, non-violence and active opposition to injustice and discrimination were first used by Mahatma Gandhi on the continent of Africa. Mahatma Gandhi always believed that so long as Africa was not free, India’s own freedom would be incomplete. Our first Prime Minister, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, was also a firm believer and practitioner of the principle of Afro-Asian solidarity and of support to the struggles of the people of Africa against discrimination and apartheid. 

Therefore, after India achieved independence, we embarked on a path of close cooperation with the newly independent nations of Africa who shared similar problems of under-development, poverty and disease. India’s cooperation with Africa was based on the principle of South-South cooperation, on similarities of circumstances and experiences. India was always open to sharing our strengths, our democratic model of development and our appropriate technologies that are cheap, yet effective. Africa became the largest partner of India’s technical assistance and capacity building programmes. Many of you present here today would have studied in some Indian university. We are proud that tens of thousands of African students studied in various Indian universities and then returned home to contribute to the economic and social development of their respective countries. Some of them rose to hold high positions. In the first few decades of our independence and also those of our African partners, India extended over US $ 3 billion worth of concessional lines of credit to be used in those infrastructure and other development projects that were determined by our African partners.

There was also a continuous high level of interaction between the political leaderships of India and African nations. Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Smt. Indira Gandhi, Shri Rajiv Gandhi and other leaders are held in high esteem in Africa. So also were the leaders of Africa who always received a warm welcome in India. This continues even today. 

These cooperation programmes and the guidance of our respective leaderships laid the foundation of a very strong political and economic partnership between India and Africa in the 20th century. On these foundations, a new architecture for structured engagement and cooperation for the 21st Century was designed at the first India Africa Forum Summit hosted by India in April 2008. The Summit provided an occasion for the leaderships of India and Africa to come together to chart out the roadmap for a systematic engagement. The India Africa Forum Summit adopted two historic documents, the Delhi Declaration and the India Africa Framework for Cooperation. 

The Delhi Declaration which is a political document covers bilateral, regional and international issues. These include our common positions on UN reforms, climate change, WTO and international terrorism, etc. The India-Africa Framework for Cooperation spells out the agreed areas of cooperation. These areas span human resources and institutional capacity building, education, science & technology, agricultural productivity and food security, industrial growth, small & medium enterprises and minerals, health sector, development of infrastructure, and ICT. 

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh also announced at the Summit the Duty Free Tariff Preferential Scheme for the 50 least developed countries, 34 of whom are in Africa. This will cover 94% of India’s total tariff lines and, more importantly provide preferential market access on tariff lines for 92.5% of the global exports of all LDCs. We hope that by providing increased access to African products to Indian markets, the Duty Free Tariff Preferential Scheme will increase trade flows between India and Africa. 

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh also announced our decision to double the amount for lines of credit to US$ 5.4 billion for the next five-years i.e. over one billion each year. These lines of credit will be for projects prioritized by African nations and could include such crucial sectors as infrastructure, including agriculture and food security, IT, telecom, power-generation, physical connectivity and small, medium and micro enterprises, water-management, capacity-building in agriculture and building institutions dedicated to agricultural research. 

At the India Africa Forum Summit, India also announced a grant of US$ 500 million for the next five to six years to undertake projects in human resource development and capacity-building. Long-term scholarships for undergraduates, postgraduates and higher courses have been doubled and the number of slots under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) increased from 1100 to 1600 every year. We have also offered to share with our African friends our experience in using remote-sensing and satellite-imagery for weather-forecasting, natural resources management, land use and land-cover mapping and a variety of other applications. 

We are happy to see the Indian private sector increasingly engage in Africa. Indian companies have made large investments in Africa running into several billion dollars in industry, agriculture, infrastructure and human resource development. India’s trade with Africa has been growing rapidly. Two-way trade has risen to over 36 billion dollars in 2008-09, which represents an almost six-fold increase in as many years. Even so, the true potential is much greater and the spread and composition of the trade has to be substantially diversified. 

A successful partnership programme between India and Africa have been the CII-EXIM Bank Conclaves. These Conclaves are intended to create and provide platforms for decision makers from African countries and relevant multilateral, regional and national funding agencies to meet and interact with the entire range of Indian companies involved in engineering consultancy, turnkey projects, construction and supply of project goods. 

So far, five Annual Conclaves in India (two in 2005, one each in 2006, 2008, 2009) have been held. Indian participation has grown from 200 industry members to 500 members. Participation has grown from 153 African delegates to 483. Eleven Regional Conclaves in Africa (in Zambia, Ethiopia, Ghana, two in South Africa, Uganda, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Tanzania and Nigeria) were held. 

There is a growing demand in Africa for developing infrastructure, new technologies, engineering services and manufacturing capabilities for local value addition. These offer excellent opportunities to Indian businesses in Africa, and to millions of young people in Africa who can be employed in the manufacturing and services sectors. 

The Pan African E-network project that seeks to bridge the ‘digital divide’ between Africa and the rest of the world is one of the most far-reaching initiatives undertaken by India. Already 42 countries have joined this programme which is intended to provide E-services with priority on tele-education and tele-medicine services and VVIP connectivity by satellite and fibre optic network amongst the Heads of State of all 53 countries. The Project would give major benefits to Africa in capacity building through skill and knowledge development of students, medical specialists and for medical consultation. 

India has also been extensively involved in peacekeeping efforts in Africa over the past six decades. At present, India has over 7000 peacekeepers serving in Africa, including a 5000 strong contingent in the Democratic Republic of Congo. India’s first full all-female formed police unit is currently deployed in Liberia. In addition to peacekeeping, this unit has been successful in reaching out to the most vulnerable sections of the society i.e. women and children and in inspiring women who have so often been victim of war to see themselves also as sources of succour and strength in this recently war torn society. 

A vibrant India and a resurgent Africa are thus witnessing an intensification of relations and growing convergence of interests in their common quest for sustainable economic growth and development. Our partnership encompasses priority sectors integral to the developmental goals of Africa in the 21st century. 

In conclusion, I would like to state that India envisions an Africa that is self-reliant, economically vibrant and at peace with itself and the world. While highlighting the vitality of African continent, the first Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, had said, “Of one thing there can be no doubt, and that is the vitality of the people of Africa. Therefore, with the vitality of her people and the great resources available in this great continent, there can be no doubt that the future holds a great promise for the people of Africa.” 

It is this promise that our Partnership with Africa seeks to fulfill. India will offer its fullest cooperation to harness the great potential of the African people for the cause of Africa’s progress and development. 

Port Louis 
November 03, 2009

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