In Khartoum, say India and Sudanese are likely to hum one of their favourite Bollywood songs, evoking deep emotional connect between the people of India and Sudan that is underpinned by shared values and centuries of unbroken historical connections. Hindi films are screened often at local theatres, especially in the old city of Omdurman, home to a large Indian diaspora.
The cultural chemistry has been nourished by multi-layered interactions and robust people-to-people contacts. In the early 20th century Port Sudan used to be a regular stopover for Indiana travelling to England by boat, including iconic leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Now, hundreds of Sudanese students are fashioning a new life in various universities and training institutes across India. Under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, India has offered 150 slots to Sudan for short term courses.
Since India and Sudan formally established diplomatic ties in 1950, bilateral ties have been on an upward trajectory. Sudan Block in India’s National Defence Academy was set up with the funding of 100,000 pounds from the Sudanese government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II.
The 1955 Bandung conference has a special resonance: Sudanese leaders and diplomats fondly recall how Prime Minister Nehru wrote Sudan on his handkerchief at the conference, reserving a place for it in the international community, as it did not have a flag to mark its place since it was still not independent.
Since Prime Minister Nehru’s visit to Sudan in 1957, there have been a spate of two-way high-profile visits. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam paid a state visit to Sudan in 2003, the first presidential visit in 28 years after Fakruddin Ali Ahmed’s visit in 1975.
India and Sudan have signed 30 agreements encompassing diverse areas, including trade, media, science and technology, culture, business and small industries, consultations, agriculture and many other areas. Bilateral trade is on an upward curve, and is now estimated to be around USD 1.5 billion (as of 2014-15), according to India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Leading Indian companies have invested in Sudan, which includes, among others, ONGC Videsh Ltd., BHEL, Mahindra, Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto, and many hospital chains such as Apollo are represented in the country through their agents.
Energy is a key driver of India’s relations with Sudan, with OVL owning 25 per cent stake in Greater Nile Petroleum Company. OVL has invested $2.5 billion in oil assets across Sudan and South Sudan.
Capacity building has been a sturdy pillar of India-Sudan relations. India had helped Sudan in the conduct of its parliamentary elections in 1953. One has to only drive down to Khadarab village, about two hours from Khartoum, to get a first-hand feel of how India-assisted projects are transforming lives of Sudanese people. The solar electrification system, funded by India’s Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources and implemented by Central Electronics Ltd, has brought light for the first time into the lives of some 1,500 villagers. The project has been replicated in several other villages. India has given several Lines of Credit to Sudan worth USD 737.07 million straddling diverse sectors. In 2013, India and Sudan signed an agreement for rescheduling of Lines of Credit of &566.9 million, which included relaxation of the interest rate, repayment period and moratorium of the LoC.
Bolstered by a confluence of cultural and economic ties, India’s multi-faceted ties with Sudan are set to evolve and move into a higher trajectory in days to come.
Bilateral Trade: USD 1.5 billion.
Exports: USD 900 million, Imports: USD 600 million
Investments: Over USD 3 billion
Key India-assisted Projects
Solar electrification system in Khadarab village
SINJA-GEDARIF Transmission and Sub-Station project
Cycle power plant (125 MWX4) in Kosti, Sudan
Mushkor Sugar Plant at While Nile State, Sudan
LOCs: India has provided Sudan LOCs worth USD 737.07 million in various sectors.
Scholarships: Under the ITEC programme, India has offered 150 slots to Sudan for short term courses. Around 1000 Sudanese nationals had applied against these slots.
Diaspora: Around 1500 people of Indian origin
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