President Kovind and V-P Venkaiah Naidu to head India’s Africa outreach with three-nation tour
The three-nation trips will take to 24 the number of African countries visited by the President, Vice-President and the Prime Minister. India has received 12 heads of government and state from Africa since it hosted the Africa Forum summit in October 2015.Updated: Mar 22, 2018 23:06 IST
President Ram Nath Kovind will travel to three African countries next month and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu will go on a three-nation trip later this year as part of the government’s effort to boost ties with the continent and counter China’s growing influence, two officials familiar with the development said.
These trips would take to 24 the number of African countries visited by the President, Vice President, and Prime Minister. India has received 12 heads of government and state from Africa since it hosted the Africa Forum summit in October 2015.
China has considerable influence in resource-rich Africa. The 55 countries of the continent will have a crucial say in India’s quest to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.Outreach to Africa has been a key foreign policy focus area of the NDA government since it came to power in May 2014, with high-level visits raising the profile of bilateral ties with the continent.
Kovind will travel to Swaziland, Equatorial Guinea, and Zambia in the first visit week of April, covering both the South and Central African region.
“The dearth of high-level visit from India to African countries has long been cited as a problem in stepping up bilateral ties. One of the focus areas of the government is this. At least one ministerial visit took place from India to all African countries since 2015. The forthcoming visits would add to the high-level exchanges,”said one of the two officials cited in the first instance on condition of anonymity. He said relations with Africa had gained momentum following the Africa Forum summit in 2015 attended by 41 heads of state or government.
Naidu is likely to visit Africa in October, his second foreign trip as V-P. He will visit Bostwana, Malawi, and Equatorial Guinea. On his first foreign visit after taking charge in August 2017, Naidu will travel to the Latin American countries of Panama and Guatemala in May. Ethiopia and Djibouti were the first foreign ports of call for President Kovind.
India is stepping up its engagement as China expands its economic and strategic footprint across the continent. India has extended 152 lines of credit to the tune of almost $8 billion to 44 African countries for developing agriculture, infrastructure, public transport, clean energy, irrigation, and manufacturing capacity. Strategic affairs expert C Uday Bhaskar said, “The kind of attention India is giving to Africa is overdue. The very fact that the President is making his second visit to the continent in a short span is significant. But India needs to follow up on all promises it makes and agreements it signs during these trips to ensure that the ties are, indeed, stepped up.”
First Published: Mar 22, 2018 23:06 IST