Prime Minister Modi’s Africa tour commences; first stop Mozambique

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-day visit to four key countries in Africa began on Thursday 7 July, the primary focus of which is deepening co-operation in the areas of hydrocarbons, maritime security, trade and investment, agriculture and food.

The four countries – Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya – are considered to be a gateway to many landlocked African nations and Prime Minister Modi will try to bring a new momentum to India’s ties with the continent where China has been trying to increase its clout.

The Prime Minister’s visit comes within weeks of President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s trip to Africa with the aim of strengthen and reinvigorating India’s ties with the nations of the continent.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Mozambique, the first of an India prime minister in 34 years, included high-level meetings with the Mozambican authorities and President Filipe Nyusi, a visit to parliament and a meeting with the Indian diaspora in Maputo.

During a banquet hosted by President Nyusi, the Indian Prime Minister applauded Mozambique as one of the fastest growing economies of the world in recent decades. He added that, as two developing countries, both India and Mozambique are facing similar challenges, and therefore, development and economic partnership are an essential part of the relationship between the two nations.

“Our trade and investment ties have particularly flourished in recent years. We want to build further on it. For this, India remains ready and committed to share its experiences, technology, capacity and concessional credit with Mozambique, in line with your priorities”, said the Prime Minister.

Emphasising that the relationship between the two countries is not new, Prime Minister Modi said that: “thousands of Indian-origin people call Mozambique their home. I am told that most of the Siddi community that resides in parts of India can trace its ancestry to Mozambique. These communities are a living testimony to age old links that have connected our people, their ideas and traditions, and culture and commerce”.

Noting that both the countries suffered under the colonial rule, the Prime Minister said: “in the case of Mozambique, the struggle was much longer. Independent India was one of the leading advocates of Mozambican freedom from colonial rule. We were proud to see Mozambique join the ranks of free nations in 1975”.

“Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Mozambican independence and of the establishment of our diplomatic ties. It also saw a level of interaction between our nations, never seen before. Its high point was your own state visit to India in August 2015. Later, your Prime Minister honoured us with his presence during the third edition of the India-Africa Forum Summit. Excellency, I am aware that I am the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Mozambique in 34 years. This gap should never have been so long. And, I am confident that it will not be so in future”, the Prime Minister noted.

“With these words, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in raising a toast: to the health, happiness and well-being of His Excellency, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi; to lasting peace, progress and prosperity among the people of Mozambique; and to strong bonds of friendship and co-operation between India and Mozambique”, he added.

Earlier, Prime Minister Modi said that India and Mozambique recognise terrorism as the gravest security threat facing the world today, and as such, both the nations have agreed to strengthen their defence and security relationship.

Prime Minister Modi and President Nyusi also witnessed the signing of three agreements on the reduction of drug trafficking and psychotropic substances and related materials, co-operation in the field of youth affairs and sports, and a long-term agreement for the purchase of pulses (legume/edible bean).

The three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were signed between the secretary of economic relations in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Amar Sinha, and the Mozambican Minister of Finance, Adriano Maleiane.

New Delhi committed to buying one lakh tons of ‘arhar’ from Mozambique:

On Thursday Secretary Sinha said that India is committed to buying one lakh tons of ‘arhar’ (pigeon pea) from Mozambique this year, and will increase the limit by 25,000 tons every year thereafter.

Secretary Sinha said that New Delhi will also assist Mozambique with new technologies and seeds to help that nation increase its agricultural output.

“Arhar dal is produced here (Mozambique) in abundance. So, we have guaranteed to take one lakh tons this year and will increase by 25,000 tons every year. Along with this, we will also provide them (Mozambique) with new seeds and teach them new techniques to increase their productivity”, said Secretary Sinha.

Secretary Sinha further said that the pricing at which India will buy pulses from Mozambique is linked with the minimum support price (MSP) provided to farmers in India for mutual profits.

This follows the signing on Tuesday 5 July, of a long-term MoU between India and Mozambique to double import of pulses (mainly arhar and urad) from the current one lakh tons to two lakh tons by 2020-21. (Click here to follow link to related article).

He said that: “The (bilateral) discussion covered a wide range of issues right from diaspora to defence to maritime security, food security and of course, capacity building in agriculture”.

Discussions were also held about the investment climate and how favourable conditions can be created for Indian investors in Mozambique.

Secretary Sinha pointed out that Prime Minister Modi has handed over a special booklet created to explain the situation of Maputo to Indian investors.

The two countries have signed four MoUs.“One deals with drug trafficking, contraband and psychotropic chemicals and the second is for co-operation in youth and sport, which is very significant because 66% of Mozambique population is below 34 years of age and they wish to learn from our own experiences. The third and the most critical one relates to our food security quest”, said Secretary Sinha.

The Indian Prime Minister also announced that essential medicines, including those for treating AIDS, would be donated to Mozambique as part of efforts to strengthen the public health system of the African nation.

India will also help build the capacities of Mozambique’s security forces amid Prime Minister Modi’s vow to march with Mozambique on its path of development and progress.

“We want development and economic progress to benefit the people. We also want safety and security of our people”, he said.

India will also look at expanding co-operation with Mozambique in the hydrocarbons sector. Mozambique is the third largest exporter of natural gas after Qatar and Australia and a number of Indian companies, such as ONGC, have invested heavily in the hydrocarbons sector in that country.

Indian interests in Mozambique include the participation of two Indian companies in the natural gas exploration block led by Anadarko in the Rovuma Basin, and coal production in Tete Province.

Despite several Indian operators having suspended their production in Mozambique due to low prices, the Indian state consortium International Coal Ventures Limited (ICVL) announced this week that it plans to build a thermal power plant with an initial capacity of 200 megawatts (MW).Mozambique and India also ratified an agreement in the area of civil aviation. According to figures released this week by the Times of India, a quarter of Indian investment in East Africa is for Mozambique. Trade between the two countries has increased fivefold in the past five years and is currently worth approximately US$2-billion annually.

India also maintains a US$640-million line of credit for Mozambique, and a further US$10-billion more for the African continent in its entirety, announced at the Third India-Africa Summit in August 2015 in New Delhi. At the time, Mozambican Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário said that Mozambique would use the line of credit to focus on projects in the agricultural sector, water supply and the restructuring of the post office.

Source: ABP Live/India TV/Lusa/Times of India/The Hindu
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