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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the Signing of the Agreement between MEA and TCIL for the e-VBAB Network Project

September 10, 2018

Shri Manoj Sinha, Honble Minister of Communications;
H. E. Mr. Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam, Ambassador of Republic of Eritrea and Dean of African Missions in India;
Shri T.S. Tirumurti, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs;
Shri A.Seshagiri Rao, Chairman and Managing Director of TCIL;
Distinguished High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Representatives from African countries;
Friends from the Media;


Ladies and Gentlemen…

Today we are witnessing yet another landmark in our close and historic relations with Africa – the signing ceremony of the Agreement between MEA and the Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. to establish a pan-African e-network between India and Africa. This project, called the e-VidyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati Network Project, will serve as yet another bridge – a digital bridge – between our countries, shrinking the distance between India and Africa even more.

Over the years we have built several bridges with Africa. Our Bridge through History was built by none other than Mahatma Gandhi himself, when he lived in South Africa, fought apartheid and sharpened the weapons of Satyagraha. Our Bridge of Common Values and Solidarity was built, when we together fought for freedom for our peoples, where many of the African leaders were inspired by India’s own fight for freedom through non-violence.

Our Bridge of Brotherhood was built by the people of Indian origin, who have now become an integral part of your respective countries. Our Bridge of Prosperity continues to be built by robust trade and investment. Our Bridge for Development continues to be built through our assistance and sharing of expertise. And our Bridge for Shared Security has been built over the decades by our peace-keepers in Africa and, more recently, through our cooperation in maritime security and counter-terrorism.

But today, we are here to build a bridge which is no less important. The Bridge of Knowledge and Health between India and Africa.

Friends,

we live in the Knowledge Century. The world of today is the world of ideas and innovation. Sharing of knowledge and expertise is one of the greatest gifts we can give to one another. The second phase of the Pan African e-Network Project aims to do precisely that. It aims to provide tele-education and tele-medicine through an improved technological medium thereby putting India’s knowledge and technical expertise at the service of our African partners.

Excellencies and Friends,

Our government has put Africa at the top of India’s foreign policy priorities. This is reflected in our actions: in the last four years, there have been 26 visits to African countries at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister apart from several Ministerial visits; it has been decided to significantly enhance our diplomatic presence in Africa with the opening of 18 new Resident Missions over the coming four years; our business and developmental links continue to be robust; and our cooperation and support for each other at the international fora remains steadfast.

Prime Minister Modi, in his recent visit to Uganda, has laid out a vision for our engagement with African countries. The ten guiding principles of this vision will take our relations to greater heights and unlock the immense potential that our partnership still holds. These are principles are derived from our engagement over the years and responds to the urgent and fast evolving needs of our present world.

As the Prime Minister mentioned during his speech to the Ugandan Parliament, Africa will be at the top of our priorities. Our development partnership will be guided by African priorities, so that it liberates African potential and not constrain their future. We will rely on African talent and skills and build local capacity and create local opportunities. We will keep our markets open and make it attractive to trade with India.

We will support our industry to invest in Africa. We will harness India’s experience with digital revolution to support Africa’s development – and today’s e-network project is a manifestation of that commitment. This will also equip the youth of Africa to take their place in the digital age. We will work with Africa to improve their agriculture as well as address the challenges of climate change and adopt clean and efficient energy sources.

That’s why many countries of Africa have joined the International Solar Alliance spearheaded by India. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation and mutual capabilities in combating terrorism and extremism; in keeping our cyberspace secure; and in supporting the UN in keeping peace. We will work with Africa to keep the oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations.

India’s vision of Indian Ocean Security is cooperative and inclusive, rooted in security and growth for all in the region. We must all work together to ensure that Africa does not once again turn into a theatre of rival ambitions, but becomes a nursery for the aspirations of Africa’s youth.

And Friends,

just as India and Africa fought colonial rule together, we will work together for a just, representative and democratic global order that has a voice and a role for one-third of humanity that lives in Africa and India. India's own quest for reforms in the global institutions is incomplete without an equal place for Africa.

Excellencies and Friends,

The e-VidyaBharati and e-ArogyaBharati Network Project being launched by India is a clear effort by India to reach out to Africa in the critical areas of education and health. This e-network aims at providing quality tele-education and tele-medicine facility by linking select Indian Universities, Institutions and Super Specialty Hospitals to African educational institutions and hospitals.

As you are aware, in its earlier avatar this Project was operated on satellite-based technology and covered 48 African countries. It has now been decided to establish two separate web-based portals – one each for tele-education and tele-medicine. This would significantly increase the ease of access for students, doctors etc. who are the intended beneficiaries of this Project.

It is my sincere hope that our African partner countries fully share and contribute to making this Project an even bigger success than its first phase. A potentially transformative project of this magnitude can be sustainable only with equal participation of all stakeholders in India as well as on the African Continent.

Excellencies,

through you, I would like to urge your governments to extend all necessary support and assistance for the early implementation and optimal functioning of the project over its entire duration. I also hope that the Project will be provided widespread publicity so as to reach the remotest parts of Africa. New technology will make it possible for students and doctors, even in remote locations, to benefit from the Project.

The Agreement being signed today is going to be a vital bridge between us. I would like to wish all the stakeholders a great success. I would, in particular, like to thank the Ministry of Communications and TCIL for their resolve in making this a reality for the good of our peoples. Our Missions in Africa will also be participating actively in implementing the project and its monitoring.

Let me conclude by once again thanking all of you who have come today to participate in this important event.

Jai Hind !

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