Prime Minister Narendra Modi logged 19 bilateral meetings with African leaders on Wednesday and capped the marathon relationship-building effort with a dinner where his guests turned up in specially-tailored Indian long coats and safa, the colourful headgear.
He reached out to Africa, sprinkling personal anecdotes to underscore common goals such as United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms, joint fight against terrorism and climate change to expand cooperation in diverse fields.
The bilaterals spanning six hours set the tone for Thursday’s main event of the India-Africa Summit, an Indian initiative for forging a bond with a continent that has remarkably good trade ties with China. India’s trade with Africa is worth $70 billion, which pales under China’s $200 billion.
A day before he hosts representatives of 54 African nations for the summit, Modi pitched for early reforms of the UNSC and received support from many heads of states, barring Algeria and Egypt.
South Africa president Jacob Zuma voiced his frustration over “the unequal system at the UN where veto-wielding countries (permanent members US, UK, Russia, China and France) cannot agree on key issues”.
From the day’s first meeting with Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe to the final one with Botswana vice-president Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Prime Minister Modi maintained that India is a willing partner in the African nations’ march towards economic and overall progress.
Modi drew from personal experience, such as a visit to Uganda when he was chief minister of Gujarat, to build instant camaraderie with the visiting heads of state.
Finally at the dinner, the PM played the perfect host as he gave his guests a taste of India at the Crafts Museum in Pragati Maidan.