By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, Jun 23: India's diplomatic outreach to Africa continues with the ongoing visit of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to Rwanda for the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
From supplying Made-in-India vaccines to several African countries during the peak of Covid-19 pandemic to supporting their fight against hunger and poverty and now assisting them in dealing with the implications of the situation in Ukraine, the Narendra Modi government has shown that it stands ready to support the countries affected in the continent.
En route to Kigali for the biennial event which runs from June 20 to 25, Jaishankar has already met Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and country's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali in Addis Ababa, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo besides Eamon Courtenay, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Central American country of Belize.
"So nice to meet my friend Raychelle Omamo of Kenya. Our discussions focused on the impact of the Ukraine conflict on food, fuel, and fertilizer security for the Global South. Reaffirmed our ongoing cooperation in the UNSC," Jaishankar tweeted after meeting his Kenyan counterpart on Wednesday.
New Delhi continues to highlight that PM Modi's top 10 'Broad Guiding Principles' have defined India's engagement with Africa for the 21st century partnership.
The intensified engagement between India and African countries in the last six years has witnessed 35 outgoing visits from India at level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister and more than 100 incoming visits from African Heads of State/Government and Ministerial level. India has also opened 18 new embassies since 2018, taking its total Missions and Posts in the continent to 49.
Adding momentum to India's engagement with Africa and emphasising India's commitment to the African continent, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu visited Gabon and Senegal a few weeks ago which was the first-ever high-level visit from India to these west African countries.
Jaishankar had stated recently that even though the Covid pandemic interrupted the natural progression of this momentum of cooperation, India has completed 189 projects in Africa, with 76 at the execution and 68 at the pre-execution stage. Financed by lines of credit with an outlay of over USD 12 billion, they extend to over 41 countries.
"Many of these projects were the first of their kind in Africa. Some of them are truly iconic in nature. And notable examples include the railway line and Presidential Palace in Ghana, National Assembly Building in Gambia, the Rivatex textile factory in Kenya, the Metro Express project in Mauritius and the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Niger," the External Affairs Minister had said last month.
India's growing partnership with Commonwealth members
Representing PM Modi at the Commonwealth Summit on June 24-25, as well as attending the pre-CHOGM Foreign Ministers' Meeting today, Jaishankar is also expected to hold several bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Commonwealth member states and other visiting dignitaries.
With the theme of 26th CHOGM Summit being 'Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming', the leaders of the Commonwealth member states are scheduled to deliberate on issues of contemporary relevance. It includes global challenges like climate change, food security and health issues. They are likely to adopt four Outcome Documents: CHOGM Communique; Kigali Declaration on Child Care and Protection Reform; Declaration on Sustainable Urbanization and Commonwealth Living Lands Charter: A Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands (CALL).
A number of forums including the Commonwealth Youth Forum, Commonwealth Women Forum, Commonwealth Business Forum, Commonwealth People's Forum, and other side-events are also planned on the side-lines of CHOGM by Rwanda, the incoming Chair of the Commonwealth.
"The Commonwealth provides an important platform to deepen India's engagement with Commonwealth members, in particular the Small States (SS) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). India is also one of the largest contributors to the Commonwealth and has assisted the organisation with technical assistance and capacity building. In 2018, India announced the creation of a Commonwealth Window, dedicating US$50 million for development projects and assistance to developing countries of the Commonwealth," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement before Jaishankar's departure.