President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday India had a close relationship with African countries, calling for the safety of African nationals living in the country.
Thousands of students from Africa were outraged over the murder of a 29-year-old Congolese man in south Delhi and a string of other attacks that triggered a debate on racial bias.
“…how can we tolerate this? How can we even comprehend it? Should Africans not feel safe in India?” said Mukherjee, who is scheduled to visit three African nations —-- Namibia, Ghana and Ivory Coast --- early next month.
Addressing a gathering of Indian envoys at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, he said: “It would be most unfortunate if the people of India were to dilute our long tradition of friendship with the people of Africa and the welcome we have always extended to them in our country. African students in India should have no reason to fear for their safety and security.”
The President said he was happy that the government took prompt action, appreciating the initiatives taken by the external affairs ministry “in consultation” with the home ministry and others.
His remarks came on the day foreign secretary S Jaishankar met a group of African students in New Delhi and assured them of their security.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was personally monitoring the outreach to the Africans, assuring swift action against culprits and a sensitisation programme amid a diplomatic crisis after African envoys raised concerns.
Masonda Ketada Olivier, a Congolese national, was killed in Delhi on May 20 following an argument over hiring an auto-rickshaw around 10 days ago. A Nigerian student in Hyderabad was allegedly beaten up over a parking dispute on May 25 and four separate cases of alleged assault on African nationals in the national capital were reported three days later. However, police say some of these incidents are non-racial in nature.
Mukherjee stressed the need for creating awareness about the history of the Indo-African relationship among the youth.
“We shall have to create appropriate awareness in the minds of our youngsters who may not know the history, age-old relations with Africa. India has had trading relations with African countries for centuries and every one of the 54 countries of Africa has a thriving Indian community doing business, industry etc.”
“We cannot allow these to be jeopardised in anyway and create a bad precedent which is not the ethos, which is not part of the core values of our civilisation.”