Terming it a voyage of solidarity and friendship for him, PM Manmohan Singh on Thursday made an emotional connect with Ethiopia before arriving in Tanzania for a two-day visit.
Finding similarities in cuisine and symbols like turbans between the two countries, Singh, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit this country, sent out a larger message of Africa being a natural partner to India in his address to the joint session of Ethiopian parliament.
Batting for the causes of developing nations, he also made a strong pitch to the UN to take the lead role in combating piracy — an issue of serious concern for New Delhi.
Arriving to a standing ovation, Singh began by emphasizing on the shared sameness and past associations between two democracies facing the “same challenges” of development and treasuring “diversity and federalism”.
Delving deep into the “rich and varied exchanges between the ebb and flow of history, he also had the parliament in splits when he said the south Indian tradition of using fermented flour to make dosas is similar to the way Ethiopia’s national dish injera is made.
Singh said earlier exchanges have produced remarkable and often-overlooked similarities in our traditions and cultures. “The Siddis of African descent living in India have created a fusion of Indian and African styles of music that thrives today….The sight of women with heads covered and men wearing turbans is strikingly common in Ethiopian and Indian villages….Hospitality in humble village homes begins with simple offerings, and guests are treated as incarnations of the gods.”
Striking another intimate chord, Singh recalled that Abyssinia’s invasion by Italian forces in 1935 had deeply affected Jawaharlal Nehru.
“Nehru had said ‘we in India can do nothing to help our brethren in distress in Ethiopia for we are also victims of imperialism. We can at least send our sympathy in this hour of trial’.”
In the evening, the PM arrived to a rousing welcome at Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. It was a nostalgic moment for Singh who is visiting after nearly two decades. As the general secretary of the South Commission, Singh used to visit Tanzania often.