Being Indian in Maputo
In Maputo, being Indian is not an oddity – it’s not just 20,000 persons of Indian origin living in this picturesque Lusophone country that make you feel at home, but a sense of deep cultural connections that hark back centuries, predating Vasco da Gama’s voyages.
It does not matter if you don’t understand a word of Portuguese; the sensuous lilts of music, spicy food and rich emotions draw you in. And it’s a relationship that is literally shining in the sun — drive around 20 miles away from Maputo to the India-assisted Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing Plant set up in Matola Rio Administrative Post, and you get a sense of what’s bringing the Gujarat-educated Mozambique President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi to India on a five-day visit (starting August 4).
The solar panel plant, which was built with India’s Line of Credit and technical assistance over two years ago, is now literally bringing clean light into the lives of thousands of people in villages, and also generating new employment opportunities. “The solar panel factory represents an important milestone on the development of our country,” said Castro José Elias, Provincial Director for Maputo.
Fittingly, development partnership will be in focus during the first presidential visit from Mozambique under the Modi government in New Delhi. The energy-rich Lusophone country is the second largest recipient of India’s soft loans in Africa: New Delhi has extended $640 million worth of LOCs to Mozambique. In July 2013, India and Mozambique signed three LoC agreements worth $216.4 million for a host of developmental projects encompassing drinking water supply, roads and housing development. Mozambique is the second largest recipient of LOCs in Africa.
This time round also, India is expected to announce fresh lines of credit to this strategically located country.
Business & Energy
Energy diplomacy will be high on the agenda. New Delhi is literally rolling out the red carpet for the leader of the energy-rich country where China has already made deep inroads in its lucrative hydrocarbons sector. State-run ONGC, OIL and BPCL plans to invest another $6 billion in developing a giant gas field off the Mozambique coast for the next four years, and converting the fuel into LNG for export to nations like India. Rovuma Area-1 is estimated to hold recoverable gas reserves of up to 75 trillion cubic feet. The first LNG from this block is expected to flow in by 2018-end or early 2019.
The high-wattage ministerial delegation the president has brought with him reflects key areas of cooperation that are going to get impetus in days to come. President Nyusi is being accompanied by Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Energy and Minerals, Transport and Communications and Interior.
Intensifying business ties will be a major focus area as a senior business delegation, accompanying Mozambique’s president, will interact with top Indian corporate honchos at a business meet in New Delhi. Bilateral trade has surged to USD 2.4 billion and Indian investments in Mozambique are estimated to be around USD 7 billion, with the bulk of investments focused on hydrocarbon and coal sectors.
After official engagements in New Delhi on August 5, President Nyusi heads to Ahmedabad, a place that will always have special emotive and intellectual resonance for him. He studied at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad in 2003. The brilliant career of President Nyusi underlines the appeal of India as an education hub for generations of students in Mozambique. The Indian government has been providing training to Mozambican government nominees each year in a wide range of disciplines under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. This year, 30 slots have been given to Mozambique under this programme.
The Gujarat connection of the Mozambique leader is an emblem of centuries-old links that bind India and the African continent. In the case of Mozambique, Gujarat and Goa are markers of identity for many Mozambique nationals as Muslim traders from Malabar and Hindu traders in Mozambique Island (Ilha de Moçambique) forged commercial links much before Vasco da Gama visited it in 1499. Over the next few centuries, these trading links have morphed into vibrant multi-faceted connections between the two countries, with around 20,000 Indian nationals living and working in Mozambique. It’s time for Prime Minister Modi to build on these links and step up India’s Africa diplomacy and explore new horizons as his government hosts the biggest India-Africa summit in October this year.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, an e-magazine and journal focused on international relations and emerging powers. He is Editor of “Two Billion Dreams: Celebrating India-Africa Friendship” and a co-editor of “Engaging with Resurgent Africa”).
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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