India, Africa are natural allies, says Pranab Mukherjee

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New Delhi, Mar 21 : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said that India and Africa are natural allies saying that India is looking forward to a comprehensive engagement with the African countries.

"We eagerly look forward to a comprehensive engagement with Africa, which has always enjoyed an important position in our foreign policy priorities," Mukherjee said at the 4th India-Africa Project Partnership Conclave here.

Mukherjee said that India's trade with Africa has been increasing in recent years.

"Two-way trade has risen from five billion dollars in 2001-02 to nearly 25 billion dollars in 2006-07, a five-fold growth in as many years, even though it does not include the import of gold bullion," he added.

The minister also pointed out four thematic points for a new India-Africa partnership.

"First, for India, trade and investment go hand in hand. It is with this in mind that Indian companies are making robust investments in Africa in sectors ranging from horticulture and agriculture to power generation and mining," he said.

He said that the second thematic point is that Africa is generating enormous demand for appropriate infrastructure technologies, products, engineering services and capacity building, especially for setting up manufacturing capabilities for local value addition as well as for generating employment. I

Third, India has, in recent years, extended many bilateral and regional lines of credit on concessional terms to the countries of Africa, said Mukherjee.

He said that the fourth and last theme is the fact that Africa has found merit in regional integration and is increasingly seeking to consolidate its regional economic communities.

"India's engagement with African countries has in the past focused on bilateral engagement," Mukherjee said.

India believes that terrorism is an evil that can only be combated by exercising zero tolerance for all kinds of terrorist violence and by significantly enhancing the levels of international cooperation in this area, said Mukherjee, adding, "India looks forward to enhancing its cooperation with African countries on this matter."

Talking about the reform of the United Nations, he said: "We seek the support of the African countries for overall reforms, including democratisation and expansion of the UN Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories."

Mukherjee said that climate change is another subject, "which figures increasingly in our discussions. Our commitment to solutions based on common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities remains steadfast. We seek a convergence of per capita GHG emissions between the developed and the developing world. Transfer of technologies at affordable prices is a key factor in this process."

ANI

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