Hailing India’s ties with African countries as “good”, Vice President Hamid Ansari stressed that New Delhi is not competing with Beijing in the continent as the two countries have different capacities.
He sought enhanced engagement with Africa in various areas such as IT, tele-medicine, and agriculture. This is the first vice-presidential visit from India to the two important Arab African countries in decades.
In an interaction with reporters on board his special aircraft en route to Rabat, Mr.Ansari said: “With Morocco we have substantive relationship due to one product — phosphate — which is very important for us. Indian investment is also there in Morocco in this sector.” Mr Ansari is on a visit to Morocco and Tunisia which began on May 31.
Mr Ansari underlined that Morocco has been helpful towards India at the international level. On being questioned about India’s sudden push towards Africa, he said that the focus on Africa was always there and elaborated that the region has been focused upon since the time of President Abdul Kalam. Every government has laid focus on Africa, he added.
India versus China in Africa?
Insisting that India’s relationship with Africa was not due to China’s presence in the region, Mr Ansari said: “We are not competing with China. We both have different capacities. Our relations (with Africa) are old. We will discover our space in more areas including IT and tele-medicine.” There is also scope for cooperation in agriculture, he added. India’s multi-faceted engagement is focused primarily on capacity building and training. India’s bilateral trade with Africa is around $70 billion, which lags behind that of China’s trade with Africa has exceeded $200 billion. Many commentators are prone to portray India and China as rivals in Africa, but the two rising Asian powers have different approaches towards Africa.
Speaking about India’s presence in Africa’s automobile sector, Mr Ansari said: “It is a promising sector.” Underscoring strong cultural links between India and Africa, he said that “Sooner or later Bollywood would become interested as (Morocco) is a good place for shooting of movies.” However, he acknowledged that the visits to Morocco have been “too few” and added that there is no specific reason for this.
He will jointly launch the India-Morocco Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Rabat with Morocco’s Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane on June 1. Mr. Ansari will visit Tunisia from June 2 to June 3.
Against the backdrop of rise of terror groups in the region, Mr Ansari said: “Intelligence cooperation sharing can’t be talked in public. There are two broader areas — one exchange of information and secondly issue of cyber security. We are talking on both these areas with both.” There has been an increase in terror attacks in these parts of Africa by in recent months.
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