Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has hinted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Africa soon, as New Delhi plans to bolster ties with the Dark Continent.
President Mukherjee made the indication in Accra during a reception hosted by the Indian High Commissioner to Ghana K Jeeva Sagar on Monday night. Before leaving for Ivory Coast (from where he will visit Namibia), the visiting president said that India wants to become a development partner of African countries.
President Mukherjee further said that his ongoing three-nation Africa visit “is not accidental”, but a follow-up action initiated by Prime Minister Modi, who organised the ‘India-Africa Forum Summit’ in the Indian capital in 2015. “Very recently, just a few days before Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Tunisia and Morocco. I am visiting these three countries and shortly the PM is also going to undertake visits to four-five African countries to give a message that ‘Africa, we stand by you’,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Mukherjee urged Ghana and other African countries to join campaigns, like ‘Digital India’, ‘Start up India, Stand up India’, ‘Clean India Mission’, ‘Smart Cities’, launched by the Indian PM, saying that the South Asian country was ready to boost trade ties with Africa. Mentioning that India’s current trade volume with Africa is over USD 70 billion and investments worth about USD 35 billion, he told the audience that the Indian government adopted a number of policies to attract investments from friendly African countries, including Ghana.
The president recalled that India recently extended over USD 400 million of concessional credit to Ghana for various projects, saying: “Exim Bank is also providing funding for a railway project. India-Ghana bilateral trade has reached USD 3 billion and Indian investments in this country are estimated at around USD 1 billion.”
After holding talks with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, the Indian head of the state told the media that both New Delhi and Accra agreed to take bilateral trade volume to USD 5 billion in the next four years. He also praised the Indian diaspora for their contribution to the African country’s economic growth, saying: “These giant strides would not have been possible without the active role of the diaspora. You have become force multipliers of India’s growing economic strength. I thank you for your commitment.”
Before concluding his two-day visit to Ghana, the Indian president expressed hope that his ongoing visit would strengthen India-Africa relationship within rapidly evolving geopolitical dynamics. “Our bilateral relations are extremely cordial and enjoy support across the political spectrum in both countries. The main purpose of my visit is to impart fresh momentum to this vibrant relationship, add new dimensions, enhance the mutual goodwill of our people,” he said while commenting on India-Ghana ties.
On Tuesday, Mukherjee held talks with President of Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan. Different aspects of bilateral ties, security and the issue of terrorism featured during their talks, with President Mukherjee lauding the security apparatus in place in the West African country. The two leaders agreed that terrorism is a global menace and there should be no distinction between a good terrorist and a bad terrorist. The Ivorian president said that though his country was not affected by terrorism, it is not complacent about the possibility of this menace arising in its geographical space. Later, the two presidents signed an agreement to re-establish the headquarters of the Exim Bank in Abidjan after a gap of nearly 20 years.
Speaking at a joint press conference, the visiting president said that India considers the African nation as a role model for democracy and political stability. He also praised Ivory Coast for becoming the fastest growing economy among African states, saying that Abidjan worked really hard to maintain 9-10% GDP growth rate in the last four-five years. He further welcomed the Ouattara government’s decision to allow Indian companies to increase their engagement and investments in various fields, like agro-industries, mining and chocolates. Mukherjee reiterated that India would remain the partner in assisting Ivory Coast in its economic development and growth.
On the first day of his two-day visit to Abidjan, President Mukherjee received National Grand Croix (or National Order of the Republic of Ivory Coast) – the highest civilian award of the country. It was a singularly huge first time honour for an Indian head of state.