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Charm Africa: Manmohan heads to Ethiopia, Tanzania next week

Tuesday May 17, 2011 06:13:08 PM, IANS

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flies to Addis Ababa next week to participate in the second India-Africa Forum summit that will bind two of the fastest-growing regions in the world in a closer partnership as also to discuss issues ranging from trade to terrorism and UN reforms.

Manmohan Singh will also go to Tanzania, a vibrant East African country that is home to around 40,000 people of Indian origin, after the summit with leaders of 15 African countries and top officials of the African Union Commission.

Manmohan Singh, who leaves for Ethiopia May 23, will co-chair the India-Africa Forum summit with Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial Guinea and chairman of the African Union. This will be the first ever visit by an Indian prime minister to Ethiopia though then president S. Radhakrishnan in 1965 and then president V.V.Giri in 1972 visited Ethiopia.

Leaders of around 15 African countries, which are decided by the African Union (AU), will participate in the summit.

The African countries that have been asked by the AU to participate in the summit are: Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Swaziland. Jean Ping, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, will also take part in the summit.

Ahead of the summit, India ruled out any competition with other emerging powers in Africa. "India is not engaged in any competition with others in Africa. We have a historical relationship with Africa. Africa has a special place in our hearts," Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in India's external affairs ministry, told reporters, when asked whether India was playing a catch-up with China in Africa.

India's bilateral trade with Africa is around $45 billion. China's bilateral trade with Africa, on the other hand, has already surpassed $110 billion.

"The leaders will also focus on regional and international issues of common concern, including threats from terrorism and piracy," Katju told reporters. "It is expected that the leaders will discuss significant aspects of the India-Africa partnership with the objective of enhancing its content and widening its ambit for mutual benefit," he said.

India also backed Africa for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. "India and all the countries of the African Union are on one mind on the issue of the UN reforms. The situation in the world demands reforms of international institutions," Katju said.

"There has to be an expansion of the UN Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories. Africa must find a permanent place in an expanded UN Security Council," Katju said.

Almost all African countries have backed India for a permanent seat, he said.

A meeting of senior officials and a meeting of foreign ministers will set the agenda for the May 24-25 summit. Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma will represent India at a special meeting of trade ministers that will be held on May 21.

The summit is expected to culminate in the Addis Ababa Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation which will map out the trajectory of the India-Africa engagement for the next few years. India hosted the first forum summit in April 2008.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister T.K.A. Nair and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon will be among those accompanying the prime minister on the two-nation Africa tour.

A host of events, including a trade exhibition entitled India Show, a media partnership symposium, a multi-media show tracing the history of the partnership, and a film festival will be held on the sidelines of the summit to imbue the burgeoning India-African partnership with vibrancy and popular appeal.

Two other showcase events are set to generate much interest, which include Handcrafting Hope, a programme that brings together Indian and African craftspeople; and Rhythm of Life, a series of joint cultural performances by Indian and African artistes who will showcase fusion of Indian and African culture.

Manmohan Singh will also release a commemorative stamp, a book entitled "Two Billion Dreams: Celebrating India-Africa Friendship" and a special Summit edition of the journal Africa Quarterly, published by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.



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