Tri-Africa nation visit showed keenness for enhancing ties with India: Ansari

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Onboard Air India One, Jan.12 (ANI): Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari said Tuesday that his visit to the three African states of Zambia, Malawi and Botswana not only reflected the goodwill these countries had with India, but also highlighted their keenness to enhance the level of bilateral cooperation with New Delhi.

Interacting with accompanying media onboard Air India One, Ansari said all three countries had sought cooperation in various fields, and added that these fields were ones where India possessed the capability and capacity to contribute.

"We are in a position to offer assistance in areas such as training of personnel, contribution to agricultural development, training for specialized jobs, and are working for upgrading developmental assistance," Ansari said.

While acknowledging that all three countries had activated processes of development in certain sectors that were key ones in their eyes, the vice-president said the substance of the matter was that each one of them, including Botswana, "has serious problems with regard to issues such as poverty, infrastructure and unemployment."

"This came through time and again and was followed up with a request for assistance. The 2008 India-Africa Summit should be seen as a pointer. A visit of a CII delegation to these three countries before my visit, has allowed them to take back impressions and harsh assessments of what can be done and what can't," Ansari said.

He made a particular mention of the signature role being played by the Indian community in all three countries.

"This (role of the Indian community) has been appreciated, and has been a matter of great satisfaction and pride. The Indian community in Africa has an association going as far back as three to four decades. In sum total, I am sure Minister Rawat would agree with me, that the visit to these three countries was useful and satisfactory," Ansari said.

During the question and answer session that followed his opening statement, the vice-president dwelled on issues of terrorism, access to mineral resources, capacity-building, incremental movement of India's relations with member states of the African Union.

On the issue of terrorism, he said it had come up during his discussions with the Botswanan President, but only in a "generic sense". He added that the discussion was not country-specific, but focus was for more international cooperation in dealing firmly with the menace that has claimed so many innocent lives.

On access to resources in the mineral sector, Ansari said: "A developing country like ours wants access to resources that are in short supply. For instance, in Malawi, we looked for ways to cooperate in coal and uranium. It is a part of our national policy to make sure that resources available in other countries can be made available to us."

He replied in the affirmative that a similar overture had been made with the Botswanan leadership.

On the key issue of capacity building, the vice-president said the presence of Indian-managed enterprises in Africa has helped to generate more local employment. He specifically referred to the case of the Taj Pamodsi Hotel in Zambia, where he said that the Indian staff was kept at a minimal.

"When we go for an investment venture, we don't go with the idea of imposing our work force or employment of Indians per say. We seek to limit ourselves to management and financial control of enterprises having an Indian element," Ansari said.

He reiterated that the India-Africa Summit of July 2008 had chalked out a path for "incrementally moving towards targets" set through its deliberations.

In this context, he referred to the establishment of Pan-African institutes. Ansari said that it had been left to the countries where such offers had been made to decide where they wanted these institutes to come up. Similar was the case with the setting up of vocational training centers, he added.

"We have offered them a package. They have decided where these packages will be set up. We treat the African Union as one entity.

He also seemed to reject suggestions of the PSU ONGC Videsh coming up short on meeting requirements of the Government of Nigeria, saying the entity has an excellent track record not only in Nigeria, but also in other countries as well. By Ashok Dixit (ANI)

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