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Ahead of BRICS summit, India, China to renew their Africa rivalry in this tiny nation

By Shubham

Kigali, July 21: Rwanda, one of the smallest countries of the African continent covering an area of just over 26,000 square kilometres, has found itself in the limelight of global diplomacy this week.

Ahead of BRICS summit, India, China to renew their Africa rivalry in this tiny nation

While Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Rwanda for a two-day trip starting Sunday, July 22, en route his arrival at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will set his foot on the shores of the small landlocked nation on Monday, July 23, also for a two-day outing, before reaching Johannesburg.

Prior to the visits that will be first both for the top leadership of China and India, the president of Mozambique - Filipe Nyusi - was on a three-day visit to Rwanda.

Emphasising China's relations with Rwanda, a country which Beijing prioritises in its Africa policy, President Xi hoped that his visit to the African nation will give a new impetus to the "traditional friendship and all-round cooperation" between the two nations. In a piece in The New Times, Xi also said that China-Rwanda relations will continue to produce results that will benefit people on both sides.

He also praised Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge programme - a flagship initiative for poverty reduction - and said that its active implementation and China's efforts towards its centenary goals create opportunities in the two nations' ties.

Rwandan President Paul Kamage, who visited China in March 2017 and was impressed by its management of a huge population, said he was looking forward to meeting Xi and that cooperation between the two countries was not limited to economy but also other social areas like health and education.

India not far behind

India's Modi will be doing no less to make the visit to Rwanda a memorable one. As the first Indian PM to visit the country which is one of the fastest developing in Africa, Modi will gift 200 cows - sourced locally - to the host nation, The Indian Express reported. Like the Umurenge programme, Rwanda also has a flagship Girinka programme which emphasises on "one cow for one poor family" and is personally monitored by President Kagame.

The Girinka programme aims at promoting social harmony through gifting of cows in a country which had seen one of the worst genocides in history in the mid-1990s.

President Kamage visited India in January 2017, a couple of months before setting his foot in China, and also took part in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in Gandhinagar. During former vice president Hamid Ansari's visit to Rwanda in February 2017, the two countries signed three memoranda of understanding to boost their bilateral relations including setting up of en entrepreneurship development unit in the Rwandan capital.

Irrespective of its small size, the significance of Rwanda is thus understood from the visits paid by the top leaders of two of the world's fastest developing economies. Rwanda is the only common destination of the African itinerary of Xi (Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa and Mauritius) and Modi (Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa) besides the hosts of the BRICS summit and it shows how much importance both New Delhi and Beijing have attached to it.

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