India, Botswana agree to boost cooperation in agriculture, education

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Gaborone (Botswana), Jan.10 (ANI): India and Botswana on Saturday signed two Memorandum of Understanding to boost bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture and education. The two sides also agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) to review the progress in these agreements and ensure they were implemented.

Briefing Indian media persons accompanying Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on his three-day trip to Botswana, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs Vivek Katju said: The Botswana side expressed great gratitude for the assistance that Botswana has received from us (India) in efforts of capacity building, including training of their defence forces."

"Our Vice-President assured the Botswana side that our capacity-building programs would continue and would be available in areas which Botswana considers to be priority areas," he added.

Katju specifically stressed on this point, saying that India only believes in a sharing of experiences, and has never been prescriptive in telling a country or countries what areas they should focus on or not focus on. Delhi, he said, is not interested in influencing such initiatives nor was it seeking to do so.

Giving details about the Memoranda of Understanding signed at the Grand Palm Hotel here, Gurjit Singh, Joint Secretary (East and South Africa Division) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said that the pact on cooperation on agriculture and allied services was signed by India's High Commissioner to Botswana M. Chandra and Botswana's Agriculture Minister Christian de Graaf.

He said this agreement would focus on agriculture research, agricultural machinery, livestock, crops and horticulture, and added that a JWG would be set up to ensure these were implemented.

The second MOU he said was an exchange program for cooperation in education, which was signed by High Commissioner Chandra and Botswana's Education Minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi.

This agreement, he said, would seek to cooperate on research material, joint conferences and seminars, joint research programs, training programs for educational and administrators and teachers, exchanges of scholars and teachers, twinning arrangements between institutions of higher learning, development of bilateral programs in the education sector, setting up of a chain in contemporary studies, scholarships and information technology initiatives.

Singh also revealed that the Botswana delegation, which comprised of about 12 ministers, made a special mention of the NIIT's contribution to the promotion of information technology in the country.

Katju said that the Botswana side specifically inquired about the potential for getting vocational training from the inside side, and added that India has agreed to send across experts in this area to Botswana.

He also said that as part of the India-Africa Summit process, a proposal to decide on the locations for the setting up of pan-African institutes was discussed, and it was decided that Botswana and the African Union would take this decision. He said that both sides agreed to share agricultural expertise.

On international issues, Katju said the focus was on the need for reforming the UN system and in particular the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He said the Botswana side again reiterated its support for India getting permanent membership for India in the UNSC.

The issue of climate change also came up. Both sides felt that it continues to be a pressing global issue in which developing countries will bear the brunt. Katju said international efforts need to focus on differentiated responsibilities according to each country's capacity.

On regional issues, the situation in Zimbabwe and in the Republic of Congo was discussed. Both sides agreed there was an urgent need for both of these countries to restore their democratic set-ups. When asked whether India had raised the issue of directly trading with Botswana on diamonds, Katju replied in the negative.

However, he said, Vice-President Ansari did indicate an interest in the area of mining, stating that Indian firms were showing an interest in this area, adding that it was a process with which New Delhi was comfortable with. Katju said that Ansari would be visiting a diamond manufacturing unit during his stay in Gaborone.

He also said that there were no discussions on the nuclear issue, though the Botswana side did express great appreciation for India's role in international for a. It praised India as "a dependable and trusted economic partner", Katju added.

Vice-President Ansari led the Indian delegation at the talks, while Vice-President Lt. Gen. Mompati S. Merafhe led the Botswana side at the talks. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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