Nirmala Sitharaman proposes 5 new embassies in Africa in push for diplomatic ties
India on Friday reiterated its commitment to expanding its diplomatic presence in Africa, with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying four new embassies will be opened across the continent during the current fiscal year.
The government had cleared the opening of 18 new missions in Africa over the four-year period of 2018-21 in March last year. This will take the number of Indian missions in Africa from 29 to 47.
Presenting the budget for 2019-20 in Parliament, Sitharaman said five embassies had been opened in Rwanda, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Guinea and Burkina Faso in 2018-19. “Government intends to open another four new embassies in the year 2019-20,” she said, adding this is being done to “give further impetus to India’s growing influence and leadership in the international community”.
She added: “This will not only increase the footprint of India’s overseas presence, but also enable us to provide better and more accessible public services, especially to the local Indian community in these countries.” It was not immediately clear where the new embassies would be opened in the current fiscal.
Officials said the new missions will enhance India’s diplomatic outreach in Africa and help implement a vision of enhanced cooperation and engagement with the continent.
Former ambassador Neelam Deo, director of Mumbai-based foreign policy think tank Gateway House, said India, as the world’s fifth largest economy, needs a greater presence in Africa for trade and promoting exports. “We are looking to Africa both for importing resources and for markets to export our products. The imports are not difficult but more missions are needed to drive exports,” she said.
“For example, food habits in Africa have changed. Rice was not a staple in African countries but is widely eaten in now. Such changes cannot be ignored when you are looking for markets. We need to compete with countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam that export rice,” she added.