Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Statement By External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj at Ministerial Meeting of Third India-Africa Forum Summit 27 October 2015, New Delhi

Statement By External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj at Ministerial Meeting of Third India-Africa Forum Summit 27 October 2015, New DelhiExcellencies,
I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you. We are grateful that all of you accepted our invitation to be here today. Your participation in this India-Africa Forum Summit makes this very special. Your participation is also a testament to the close friendly ties between India and Africa.   Our longstanding ties originated in maritime links thousands of years ago. We have also had the common experience of a colonial past and have been united in our solidarity to resist colonialism. In recent decades, we have worked together to demand a more just and fair international political and economic order.   The Indian Diaspora of about 3 million in Africa forms an important link between our countries. They have worked together with their African brethren in opposing colonialism in the past and are today working for economic development in their home countries. We are proud that India and Africa represent rapidly growing economies with demographic advantages and are building on their longstanding partnership.  

Excellencies,
This is the Third India-Africa Forum Summit. We have gained some experience of engagement in this format. We now know what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, we have heard what you have been telling us, of how we can pool our strengths and use our talents and experience to respond more effectively to your needs. We are committed to a people-centric approach which focuses on capacity building, human resource development and technical and financial support for our mutually agreed priorities.   In the past seven years, a total of 40,000 scholarships have been provided by Government of India to Africa. Since the Second India-Africa Forum Summit in 2011 alone, the figure stands at over 24,000 scholarships. Our scholarships and training programmes have spanned more than 300 training programmes in over 60 reputed institutions.   In addition, we have given higher education scholarships at various universities and distance learning through the Pan Africa e-network. Through these programmes, we have endeavoured to develop African capabilities in areas ranging from marine hydrography to renewable energy, and from rural development to cyber security.   We are very happy to host African students in India. They enrich our cultural fabric and contribute to mutual learning and understanding. I am also certain that they are valuable assets for African countries in their quest for development when they go back. The bonds of friendship that they develop in India further add to our age-old people-to-people ties.   We have also utilised the vehicle of Lines of Credit to foster economic and infrastructural development in Africa. In the last decade, a total of almost 9 billion US dollars in concessional credit has been approved for nearly 140 projects in more than 40 African countries and ECOWAS by Government of India. So far, nearly 60 projects have been completed. These projects range from agriculture in Burkina Faso and Madagascar to road transportation in CAR and Senegal; and from railway rehabilitation in Angola and Benin to sugar industry rehabilitation in Ethiopia and Sudan.  

Excellencies,
Today, India is rising, and so is Africa. We are the most rapidly growing developing economies in the world. We are very happy to note the intensification of India-Africa economic engagement in recent years. Our bilateral trade has multiplied 20 times in the last 15 years and doubled in the last five years to reach nearly 72 billion US dollars in 2014-2015.   India was among the first emerging economies to unilaterally put in place a duty-free market access scheme for LDCs. In 2014 we expanded this scheme to now include 98% of tariff lines. The benefits of this scheme extend to 34 African countries to increase their exports to India.   There is growing investment by Indian companies in Africa in a range of sectors, such as telecommunications, hydrocarbons, agriculture, manufacturing, IT, water treatment and supply, drugs and pharmaceuticals, coal, automobiles, floriculture and textiles. Such investment brings in capital and technology, and assists value addition and industrialisation. It also leads to diversification of economic activity and most importantly generates employment and skill development for local populations.   We also have strong on-going cooperation through training and negotiations on global trade issues, including at WTO to protect and promote the legitimate interests of developing countries, especially the LDCs. Our Trade Ministers met here in New Delhi last week. This provided a useful opportunity to discuss ways to expand our economic and commercial cooperation.   Earlier, the Third Meeting between India and the eight Regional Economic Communities of Africa was held in New Delhi in August 2014. India and the RECs have the potential to work together to enhance cooperation in various areas including human resource development, capacity building and regional projects.  

Excellencies,
This Summit takes place at a time of momentous developments in the international arena. 2015 has been a landmark year for global issues. Just last month the international community adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals as part of the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN General Assembly.   India and Africa have worked together to develop a common understanding of our core priorities for an inclusive economic growth to eradicate poverty and allocate adequate resources for sustainable development. Financing for Development, on which the 3rd International Conference was hosted in Addis Ababa is a critical aspect that will determine the success of our efforts.   We have also watched with interest the adoption of the Agenda 2063 in June this year by the African Union, which provides a clear roadmap for the future. Our similar and shared experiences and struggles translate into similar scale of challenges and concerns, both at the level of national priorities and collective interests in an increasingly globalised world. There is considerable synergy between the priorities being pursued by the Government of India and Africa’s Agenda 2063.   In the past, the solidarity between India and Africa was vital to defeat the forces of colonialism. Today, India and Africa are engaged in an equally vital struggle - the struggle to eliminate poverty and uplift our people. All of us are working to ensure provision of healthcare, education, employment, access to modern energy services, infrastructure, and connectivity between resources and markets. The similarity of our priorities and shared purpose provide special strength and context to our partnership.   Providing universal access to primary healthcare and battling diseases are particularly urgent priorities for both India and Africa. Ensuring access to affordable and quality medicines and treatment is an important area of our cooperation. We recognise the value of training of doctors and healthcare personnel, including through tele-medicine utilising modern technology, the use of affordable generic medicines, promoting the use of traditional medicines and their regulatory procedures.   Over the last several years, India has been an active participant of the international efforts to meet the challenges posed by pandemics, including Ebola and HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Pan African e-Network project links a large number of super-speciality hospitals in both India and Africa.   Our cooperation extends to other areas as well. These include agriculture, education and skills development, energy and infrastructure, science & technology among others. Blue or Ocean economy, maritime security and counter-terrorism are also areas where we need to focus more.   An ancient African proverb says it takes a whole village to raise a child. And nothing is more important in the village than the role of mothers. Both India and Africa greatly value and are committed to work together to promote gender equality and empowerment of women. The African Union is celebrating this year as the Year of Women Empowerment.   In India too, we have taken several measures to further protect and promote women’s rights. Our flagship programme Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is a nation-wide campaign to increase awareness on celebrating the girl child and enabling her education. This is another area where we can collaborate further.  

Excellencies,
In a month’s time, the international community will gather in Paris to conclude an ambitious agreement to combat climate change. Our negotiators are cooperating closely in Bonn currently. We look forward to finalising an ambitious and comprehensive climate change agreement based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibility.   The challenge of global warming can only be addressed adequately through technological solutions and financial resources to manage the transition. The developing countries, while undertaking ambitious actions on their own, need to be assisted to mitigate climate change and to adapt and adjust to its impact. India and Africa have shared concerns and interests in this regard.   The Paris meeting on Climate Change will be closely followed by the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Nairobi. The international trade regime is another very important aspect that shapes the possibilities for promotion of improved livelihoods and standards of living in our countries. We have noted with interest, the recent announcements regarding the signing of a Tripartite Free Trade Agreement and the launch of negotiations for the creation of a Continental Free Trade Agreement in Africa. These are important developments and will stimulate further trade and investment.   India and Africa have also cooperated with other partners, including third countries and international groupings and institutions, on certain capacity building projects. The special concerns and priorities of the Least Developing Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States relating to economic and development needs and protection against vulnerabilities, require collective action by the international community.   In 2014, India and Africa actively participated in and endorsed the outcomes of the 2nd UN Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries held in Vienna; the Ministerial Conference on LDCs held in Benin and the 3rd UN Conference on SIDS held in Samoa. I am sure that we will continue to work together in promoting the interests of the LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as part of their partnership.  

Excellencies,
We have just celebrated the 70th year of the establishment of the United Nations. Although Indians and Africans comprise nearly 2.5 billion people, our nations continue to be excluded from appropriate representation in the institutions of global governance. Unless we put in place more democratic global governance structures, the more equitable and just international security and development frameworks that are essential for the collective peace and prosperity of this planet, will continue to elude us. There can no longer be pockets of prosperity in vast areas of underdevelopment and insecurity.   India and Africa can no longer be excluded from their rightful place of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. How can we expect legitimacy from a governance structure that excludes the entire African continent and a country, which represents one-sixth of humanity? The 70th session of the UN General Assembly is an opportune moment to achieve concrete results on this long pending issue.   We welcome the progress achieved during the 69th session of the UNGA under the leadership of H.E. Mr. Sam Kutesa towards commencing text-based negotiations. We look forward to working together in an active negotiating process to take this forward.   UN peacekeeping is another area where India and Africa have a long history of cooperation. Over 180,000 Indian troops have participated in UN peacekeeping missions - more than from any other country. At the Leader’s Summit on Peacekeeping in New York last month, Prime Minister Modi had announced that India will further scale up its participation in UN peacekeeping operations, including by providing training for African peacekeepers at our facilities in India and in the field. Our all-female Formed Police Unit to the UN Mission in Liberia, a first in UN history, has proved to be an inspiration for women everywhere. Read More...

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