External Affairs Minister SM Krishna leaves from New Delhi on Friday on a five-day official visit to Mozambique and Mauritius, which is expected to deepen India's diplomatic thrusts in Africa and in the southern Indian Ocean region.
The visit takes place against the backdrop of the growing Chinese influence in the region.
In his first official visit to Africa since becoming India's external affairs minister over a year ago, Krishna will start his trip with a visit to Maputo, the Mozambique capital.
During his talks with the leaders of Mozambique, Krishna is expected to focus on expanding economic and strategic ties with one of the better performing economies in the region. India's Coal India Limited recently acquired two coal blocks in Mozambique. India is one of top five trading partners of Mozambique.
Security cooperation between the two sides have been growing since they signed a bilateral security cooperation agreement in 2005 aimed at bolstering Maputo's defence capabilities. The Indian Navy was invited by the Mozambique government to provide sea front security when it hosted major international summits in Maputo during 2003 and 2004.
This is the first bilateral visit by an Indian foreign minister to Mozambique in decades. The last two visits by the Indian foreign ministers to Maputo in 1979 and 1999 were in the context of multilateral conferences.
From Maputo, Krishna heads to Mauritius, home to a large Indian diaspora and a top source of capital flows into India. This time round, India will focus on expanding the strategic dialogue with the Indian Ocean country that has also attracted much attention from China in recent years.
After wrapping up his visit to Mauritius, Krishna will make a brief stopover in Seychelles, a picturesque island country that Beijing is wooing with much fervour. Last month, India and Seychelles signed two economic agreements during the visit of President James Michel to New Delhi and discussed ways to jointly combat piracy.
Defence has been an area of close cooperation, with most of the senior officers of the Seychelles People's Defence Forces and Seychelles Coast Guard trained by India. There are also several Indian defence officials from the army and navy stationed as advisors in the Seychelles.