New Delhi: India on Thursday announced a concessional credit of $10 billion to Africa in the next five years – a doubling of its existing commitment – and grant assistance of $600 million as Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the continent’s leaders to speak in “one voice” with it in pushing for UN reform and combating climate change and the threat of terrorism.
In his address at the 3rd India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS), Modi assured 41 heads of state and government and hundreds of senior officials from 54 African countries that India will extend all possible assistance to them including in areas of defence, security, trade and infrastructure development.
The event was the largest diplomatic event India has staged to date, with more leaders attending the summit than the 39 who came for the 1983 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting hosted by Indira Gandhi.
Though several African leaders paid tribute to earlier Indian leaders like Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru for laying the foundations of strong ties between Africa and India, Modi himself made no mention of his predecessors or of the Nonaligned Movement and the Bandung conference – key building blocks of the bilateral relationship.
In the concluding session, the summit adopted two documents – the ‘Delhi Declaration’ and the India Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation to chart a new course of engagement in diverse areas with Modi describing it as a historic day for both sides.
“Today, it is not just a meeting of India and Africa. Today, the dreams of one-third of humanity have come together under one roof. Today, the heart beat of 1.25 billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm,” he said.
On India’s development works in Africa, he said the government will strengthen the monitoring system to ensure effective implementation of the projects noting that “we are conscious of the shadow that falls between an idea and action, between intention and implementation.”
He said a joint monitoring mechanism with the African Union will be set up.
“To add strength to our partnership, India will offer concessional credit of $10 billion over the next five years. This will be in addition to our ongoing credit programme,” Modi said, adding India will also offer a grant assistance of $600 million which includes an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and a Health Fund of $10 million.
Eye on UN Security Council
Identifying reform of the UN Security Council as a major issue, Modi cautioned that the global body ran the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjusted to the changing world.
The Delhi Declaration said Africa took note of India’s position and its aspirations to become a permanent member with full rights in an expanded UN Security Council, calling for a decisive push in achieving “concrete outcomes” in reforming the top decision making body.
When asked why the African leaders did not clearly spell out their support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UNSC, Secretary West in Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Sarna said the summit was not about reform of the global body and that it was one of the subjects discussed in it.
Modi specifically called for stronger ties between India and Africa in the strategic areas of counter-terrorism and climate change. “Closer defence and security cooperation, will be a key pillar of India-Africa partnership. We will intensify our cooperation against terrorism and rally the world to build a common cause against it.”
On climate change, the Delhi Declaration said India and Africa looked forward to finalising negotiations on an ambitious and comprehensive agreement based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibility.
It said the developing countries, while undertaking ambitious actions on their own, need to be assisted to mitigate climate change and to adapt and adjust to its impact.
In his address, Modi invited Africa to join an alliance of solar-rich nations to be announced on November 30 at the crucial climate summit in Paris. He asserted that “excess of few cannot become the burden of many”, in an apparent attack on the developed world.
Calling India and Africa two bright spots of hope and opportunities in the global economy, he said both sides must work together to defeat scourge of terrorism.
“Today, in many parts of the world, the light of a bright future flickers in the storm of violence and instability. When terror snuffs out life on the streets and beaches, and in malls and schools of Africa, we feel your pain as our own.
And, we see the links that unite us against this threat,” he said.
Modi said both sides can deepen cooperation in maritime security and hydrography as well as countering terrorism and extremism and stressed on the need to have a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to deal with the menace.
Expanded economic engagement
The Delhi declaration listed a range of sectors for stepping up engagement including in trade, energy and power sector. It was decided that the summit will be held at an interval of five years.
Pitching for deeper trade ties, Modi said India will give high priority to increase trade and investment flows between the two sides and will make trade more balanced.
“We will facilitate Africa’s access to the Indian market.
We will ensure full and effective implementation of the duty free access extended to 34 countries,” he said.
The African leaders on their part raised several issues like climate change and reform of the UN and thanked India for its development programmes while calling for their effective monitoring and implementation.
Talking about overall ties, Modi said India was honoured to be a development partner of Africa and that it is a partnership beyond strategic concerns and economic benefits.
“We will work with you to realize your vision of a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth, empowered citizens and sustainable development an integrated and culturally vibrant Africa and, a peaceful and secure Africa, which has its rightful global place,” said Modi
Talking about trade ties, Modi emphasised the need to exploit potential of the “blue economy”.
“For me, Blue Economy is part of a larger Blue Revolution to reclaim our blue skies and blue waters, as we move on the path of clean development,” he said.
In the Delhi Declaration, both sides acknowledged that terrorism and violent extremism have emerged as primary threats to nations and condemned them in all their forms and manifestations.
“The menace of non-state actors including armed groups has acquired a new dimension as they expanded geographically, acquired resources and new instruments to spread extremist ideology and draw recruits.
“Tackling this challenge requires global strategy and cooperation. We emphasise that no cause or grievance can justify acts of terror and resolve to maintain zero tolerance against terrorism,” it said.
In the declaration, both sides also called on all countries to ensure that their territories are not used for cross-border terrorist activities.
“We strongly condemn direct or indirect financial assistance given to terrorist groups or individual members thereof by States or their machinery, to pursue such activities,” it said.
On maritime security, the declaration said India would work to support Africa, as appropriate, in the implementation of the AU 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime (AIM) Strategy in accordance with International Maritime Law.
Both sides also supported establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) aimed at integrating Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles enunciated in the Abuja Treaty, establishing the African Economic Community (AEC).
Both sides resolved to support the Continental Free Trade Area-Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) towards concluding the negotiations by 2017.
India and Africa also agreed to work towards creating conducive environment for trade facilitation in accordance with the WTO Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement.
At the end of the summit, a commemorative stamp as well as a commemorative coin was also released.
Briefing reporters after the conclusion of the Summit, Sarna said Modi held bilateral meets with a number leaders, including Egypt’s President and King of Morocco and Tanzania’s President, in which focus was on more cooperation in areas like health, education and employment generation.
Bilaterals will continue tomorrow both at the level of the Prime Minister as well as the External Affairs Minister.
Noting that the joint declaration talks about cooperation in fighting terrorism, he said India and Africa had shared goals as conflict was an enemy of development.
(With inputs from The Wire’s staff)