Ansari heads for jungle safari after state banquet

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Gaborone (Botswana), Jan.10 (ANI): Indian Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, his wife Salma Ansari and some members of the delegation accompanying him on his tri-nation tour of southern Africa, left this morning for Kasane, about 1200 kilometers from here, for a day and night jungle safari and boat cruise.

The vice-president's Botswana counterpart, Lt. Gen. Mompati S. Merafhe, is hosting him.

Kasane is a town in Botswana, close to Africa's 'Four Corners', where four countries almost meet: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is at the far north-eastern corner of Botswana where it serves as the administrative center of the Chobe District.

The town lies on the south bank of the 660 to 980-foot wide Chobe River which forms the border with the extreme tip of Namibia's Caprivi Strip, though the swamps on the Namibian side prevent any habitation on that side or river crossings to it.

About eight kilometers to the east of Kasane, is the frontage to the Zambezi River immediately below its confluence with the Chobe River. Nearby, is a second border post that serves the road into Zimbabwe which runs 80 kilometers along the south bank of the Zambezi to the Victoria Falls.

Kasane is at the north-eastern boundary of Chobe National Park and its road links make it a popular access point for tourists to the park as well as those, including it in an itinerary taking in the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls.

The Indian delegation will be staying at the Cresta Mowana Safari Lodge, which forms an ideal base for wildlife, bird-watching and safari enthusiasts, with its unique bush and river surroundings.

The Botswanian Vice-President will host a lunch for his Indian counterpart on Sunday. This will be followed by a boat cruise down the River Chobe and a dinner later in the evening.

On January 11, the Indian delegation will undertake a jungle drive through the Chobe National Park. This will be followed by breakfast. Thereafter, the Indian delegation will return to Gaborone to attend the remaining official functions before the visit concludes.

Earlier, speaking at a State Banquet held in his honor on Saturday, Vice-President Ansari said India feels an affinity with Botswana, as both countries are committed to ideals of democratic governance, accountability and transparency, besides respecting fundamental freedoms and human rights, and upholding the rule of law.

Calling on the Government of Botswana to take advantage of the new initiatives announced at the 2008 India-Africa Forum Summit, particularly with regard to capacity-building and development, Ansari said: "We have watched with great interest the initiative for economic diversification and economic growth launched by the Government of Botswana with a specific focus on addressing poverty and unemployment."He said New Delhi was particularly impressed with Botswana's diversification efforts on promoting the six hubs of agriculture, transport, the diamond industry, health, education and innovation. "I would like to assure you that the government and people of India have the capacity and desire to partner with Botswana in each of these sectors," the Vice-President said.

He further said that India possessed cutting edge expertise and technologies in sectors like agriculture, pharmaceuticals, small and medium enterprises, information technology, engineering and the various aspects of the diamond industry, which would made available to Botswana during its growth and development journey.

"We propose to establish several Pan-African institutions, including African institutes of information technology, diamonds, foreign trade and educational administrations. I am sure Botswana will benefit from some of them," Ansari said.

Referring to the eight million US dollar grant that India has made available to Botswana for social sector projects in agriculture, health and education, Ansari said cooperation in these key sectors needed to be re-energised and deepened for mutual benefit. He also said that the 20 million dollar Line of Credit extended to Botswana can be utilized for development of infrastructure or industrial projects.

He described the commissioning of the Pan-African E-Network Project as a major milestone for South-South cooperation, as it would facilitate tele-education, tele-medicine services and video-conferencing with all heads of state in Africa.

In conclusion, Ansari said Botswana has emerged as an influential player on the regional and global stage, and both countries would be well placed if they cooperated with each other towards creating a safer and equitable world order. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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