PM to leave for Ethiopia and Tanzania tomorrow

Manmohan Singh
New Delhi, May 22: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves on a six-day visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania on Monday, May 23, to inject a fresh impetus in India's strategic ties with African countries and discuss ways to effectively combat the twin threats of terrorism and piracy.

Singh, who will first head for Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union, for the Second Africa-India Forum Summit to be attended by 15 African countries, is also expected to make a strong pitch for UN reforms.

Like India, Africa too feels the adverse impact of terrorism and piracy is a phenomenon that affects both Africa and India and the leaders will discuss "ways and means of reducing and eliminating it," Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, said ahead of the visit.

New Delhi has voiced its serious concerns over the threats posed by Somali pirates since about 11 per cent of seafarers engaged by international shipping companies are Indian nationals, some of whom have been taken hostage.

There have been over 200 attacks, including about 70 successful hijackings and ransoms believed to exceed 50 million dollars have been paid to the pirates for securing the release of hostages and ships.

Singh will co-chair the Summit with the President of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in his current capacity as chairperson of the AU.

The leaders will discuss significant aspects of the India-Africa partnership with the objective of enhancing its and widening its ambit for mutual benefit.

The Summit is expected to come out with the Addis Ababa Declaration setting out the roadmap for further consolidating the strategic partnership between India and the African Union. An Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation will also be firmed up at the Summit.

New Delhi's push for getting a strong foothold in Africa comes in the midst of major initiatives being taken by China and Japan to make deep inroads there.

"Our relationship with Africa stands on its own", says Katju going on to add,"India is not engaged in competition in Africa with any other country. We are friends and we will continue to be friends and brothers. We have a historical relationship."

On UN reforms, India and all the countries of the African Union share the view that there is such a need including expansion in permanent and non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

India wants Africa to get a permanent seat in the Security Council. African countries too have supported India for a permanent membership in the UNSC.


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