Ansari meets Zambian leaders, two countries sign bilateral pact

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Lusaka (Zambia), Jan.7 (ANI): Visiting Indian Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Wednesday called on his Zambian counterpart George Kunda at the Vice-President's office.

Following a one-on-one meeting during which they reportedly discussed issues of bilateral, regional and multilateral importance, the two leaders proceeded to a boardroom for the signing of a bilateral pact.

Representing the EXIM Bank of India, Prabhakar Dalal, Executive Director, inked a pact for extending a 50 million dollar Line of Credit to the Zambian Government for the Itezhi Tezhi Hydropower Project. Zambia's Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokatwane signed the deal on behalf of the Government of Zambia.

The project is being constructed by the Itezhi Tezhi Power Corporation, which is a joint venture between ZESCO and TATA Africa Holdings at an estimated cost of 200 million dollars.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice-President Ansari said there was now a need for re-invigorating and re-energising the relationship between India and Zambia.

He also expressed appreciation for Zambia's support to India for its campaign to have itself included as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), adding that with such support from the African countries, reforms in the UN system would take place sooner than later.

The Vice-President also used the occasion of his meeting with his Zambian counterpart to lay stress on the need for support and cooperation on key issues like climate change and counter-terrorism.

Later briefing Indian media about the meetings, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Vivek Katju, said that apart from an agreement with the government of Zambia for extending a 50 million Line of Credit for its hydropower project, another Line of Credit worth 75 million US dollars has been announced for two years.

He also said that in addition, a grant of five million dollars for Zambia's social sectors was also announced.

Briefing newsmen on the talks between Ansari and his Zambaian counterpart, Katju, said they underlined the need to reinvigorate and re-energise the relationship.

Katju said that India would wait for proposals preferably for education and agriculture sectors from the Zambian government for this credit. Earlier, Ansari referring to the old and special relationship with African countries, said India's engagement in Africa is at its own pace and as per its capabilities. Asked how India will respond to the China's aggressive investments foray into Africa, theVice-President said, one should not look at Africa in terms of Chinese engagement, as India has its own unique style.

The Vice President also discussed the issue of reforms in the United Nations Security Council with his Zambian counterpart in which Lusaka reiterated its support to India's bid for permanent membership in the UNSC after its expansion. Ansari also met the Zambian President Rupiah Bwezani Banda at State House in the capital.

Zambian Finance Minister Stumbeko Musokotwane and other members of theIndian delegation, including Minister of Labour and Employment Harish Rawat, were also present.

Bilateral trade between India and Zimbabwe stood at 207 million dollars in fiscal 2007-08, and in the next three years, Indian investments in Zambia are expected to total three billion dollars.

After lunch in his hotel suite, the vice-president left on a special flight to see the world-famous Livingstone Park and Victoria Falls. He was expected to spend a little over three hours at the spot before returning to Lusaka in the evening.

On Thursday, Vice-President Ansari will call on former President of Zambia and a close friend of India, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, at the Kabulonga Office. The meeting is expected to last for 30-minutes.

Thereafter, he will return to his hotel and meet with Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande and Commerce and Trade Minister Felix C.Mutati.

In the afternoon, he will attend a reception for the Indian community hosted High Commissioner Kumar and his wife.

During the stay, Ms. Ansari will visit the Mother Teresa Home in Lusaka on Wednesday. On Thursday, she will interact with members of the Lusaka-India Ladies Association (LILA) at the Steaks and Grill Restaurant.

The Indian delegation will depart for Malawi capital Lilongwe on Thursday afternoon. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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