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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (West) on 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit (October 16, 2015)

October 17, 2015

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vikas Swarup): Good evening friends and welcome to this briefing on the Third India-Africa Forum Summit.

I have with me two people that you are very familiar with - two former JS (XP)s – Mr. Navtej Sarna, Secretary (West) and Mr. Syed Akbaruddin, Additional Secretary & Chief Coordinator (India-Africa Forum Summit). We also have Mr. Tanmaya Lal, Joint Secretary (Eastern & Southern Africa). The way we will handle this is, Secretary (West) will give you a broad overview of the Africa Summit; Mr. Akbaruddin will then play a video which will tell you the logistical details of the Summit; and thereafter we will open up for questions. With that, I will give the floor now to Secretary (West).

Secretary (West) (Shri Navtej Sarna):Thank you, Vikas, and good afternoon friends.

We are a few days away from the Third India-Africa Summit. So, we thought it is time that we started outlining the context of the summit, some of the major issues of the summit, the areas in which we are engaging Africa and Africa is engaging India, and the areas that we are likely to see being highlighted in the discussions.

I am going to steer clear of all the things you are interested in and I am not going to get into how many people are coming, when is so and so going, when is so and so coming and all that. I think you already know enough, I see everything printed in the newspapers. So, let me go back a bit and talk on a broader thing because I think this is an excellent opportunity for the Indian press actually to go into the depths of this relationship and to examine some of the things in more substantive detail.

Obviously everybody who has come for the briefing is interested in Africa and I am sure that you already have sufficient background. But just to give you a very quick snapshot, if I may, of what Africa looks like when we are looking at engaging in political, economic, strategic terms, Africa and India together form 2.3 billion people. That is one third of the population of the globe. Africa is ten times the size of India, and it has a vast variety. Whether you see it in terms of cultures, ethnicities, languages, economies, polity, it is a tremendously diverse continent. So, there is no one size fits all when you come to engaging with different African countries.

It is a continent which is today marked by economic resurgence broadly. And some of the fastest growing economies in the world are on the African continent. It is a continent which has large amounts of arable land. It is a continent which is resource rich. It is a demographically young continent – 65 per cent of African population is under the age of 35. It has got a long coastline, very important in trade and strategic terms, of 26,000 km. It has also got several landlocked countries.

There has been a very positive move on the African continent in the last few years towards democracy, an insistence on good governance, and an awareness of the prosperity that awaits Africa in the decades to come.

As far as India’s engagement with Africa is concerned, I would like to clarify that we should not think in terms of summits that this is the third summit, so India started engaging Africa in 2008. That would be a wrong impression. I will explain this relationship a bit. India’s relations with Africa are millennia old whether we use these people going, the maritime links that we have had, the civilisational links that we have had, the diaspora, today we have 2.7 million strong diaspora in Africa in different parts of East as well as in the West.

We have had engagement with Africa ever since our Independence and even before throughout the period of struggle for African independence against colonialism, against apartheid, against discrimination. Indian leaders have been closely associated with African leaders. We have been partners of Africa, we have been brothers in arms actually in their fight against apartheid, in their fight against colonialism.

We have had a very important role to play in peacekeeping. India has been part of 11 peacekeeping operations in Africa right going back to Congo onwards. Even today we are present in four major peacekeeping operations. We have about 4,500 soldiers on the ground including the only fully formed female police unit in Liberia.

Since 2008, we thought it useful to start a structured engagement in the form of a Forum Summit. Africa by then had already started similar engagements with different partners. They have a partnership in different format with the Chinese, with Japan, with the European Union, with South Korea, with Turkey, and they have had one summit with the United States. So when we started our summit engagement in 2008, it was building up on the engagement that we had had in the few years before in terms of - you may recall acronyms like Team-9 - when we first started our techno-economic engagement with the countries of West Africa.

So, this structured engagement was basically meant to lay out a three-layered relationship – bilateral, regional as well as pan-African – with the concentration being on trade, training, and technology - training through scholarship and capacity building, enhanced commerce or trade through trade facilitation, extension of concessional lines of credits, and the sharing of India’s affordable and adaptable technologies with meshing them into the African development experience.

The results have been pretty good. India’s trade with Africa in last 15 years has gone up 20 times. Today it is an impressive figure of USD 70 billion. Our investment is anywhere between USD 30 to 35 billion in Africa. We have managed to extend concessional credit to the tune of USD 7.4 billion, most of which stands approved and at least half of which stands disbursed. This concessional credit is responsible for the creation of about 137 projects in 41 countries today. We have set up a Pan-African e-Network for education and health purposes and this has been extremely successful. In about 48 countries this is functional. So, capacity building has been one of our strongest planks of cooperation.

Between the first and second summit we extended 15,000 scholarships. From the second summit to today, we have extended 25,000 scholarships. This is a very important aspect, this is the need of Africa and this is the strength of India. So, there is perfect complementarity in terms of training and capacity building.

If you look at the areas that we are now thinking of, we have to go back to what the African nations want. And that way this summit is of particular importance because this is the first major partnership summit that Africa is having after they have adopted Agenda 2063. This is the vision document which Africa has adopted for itself to see where they would like Africa to be 50 years on. This is a document which thinks about and puts down their ideas about sustainable developments, about good governance, about rule of law, democracy, the place of women, renewable energies, sustainable fisheries and so on. Essentially it is a very forward-looking document and we have made a special effort that in preparing for this summit we should be aligning our priorities and our activities as much as possible with Agenda-2063 as we can.

This is also the first summit, let me underline, which is taking place after the UN adoption of the Development Agenda 2030 a month ago, and which also has certain objectives and Sustainable Development Goals and the accompanying narrative which is broadly in alignment with our own development priorities.

It is important also to see the rest of the international landscape to see where this summit fits into the context. The summit for financing of development has just been held. The Conference of Parties 21 on Climate Change is going to be held in early December in Paris. And last year, three very important UN conferences on Landlocked Developing Countries, on Small Island Developing States, and Disaster Risk Reduction, have been held. All these are areas on which there is a need for further progress in Africa, all these are areas on which India and Africa have broadly common platforms. So, using all this international space and the major milestone conferences that we are having, we would like our conference and our summit to feed into this area.

Some of the other aspects which I think would be interesting from the Indian point of view and which we have been engaging Africa and we would continue to engage. One of them I have already mentioned peacekeeping, I would also like to mention maritime security. I have mentioned the long coastline that Africa has. A lot of this coastline is subject to global threats like piracy. And the Indian Navy has played a very significant role on the East Coast of Africa in guarding the trade routes, in securing the coastline, in even helping African nations organise international events by providing naval security.

We have done our bit in trying to build capacity, maritime capacity, in doing hydrographic surveys, we have done work in this area with Mauritius, with Seychelles, with Tanzania, with Kenya and other countries. So, this is one area which is of immense strategic interest both to Africa and to India.

One more aspect on which we are beginning our engagement but which is at the state of conceptualization and really the new frontier, really something which needs more research, more work, is the blue economy. Everybody talks of the green economy, we are very much part of that. But the blue economy, which is really the economy of the ocean, is extremely important to Africa. We have already started engaging, we have had discussions on the blue economy with Kenya, with Mozambique, with Tanzania, with Seychelles, with Mauritius. This would be developing the full potential of the oceans whether in terms of trade, security, energy, fisheries and so on. So, this is something which we have to also focus on and think about.

These are some of the areas that I thought I would mention. Of course there are areas of agriculture, extremely important for Africa. With all this arable land Africa needs food from outside. There is healthcare. We have potential of providing healthcare and we are a destination of medical tourism. There is the aspect of Africa itself as an investment destination, Africa itself as a market for Indian investments and Indian goods. And perhaps the most important aspect is education and skill development. I have already outlined to you the number of scholarships we have given. But now is the time to engage with our skill development programme to see how we can all work together and all move forward.

I must end this statement essentially by saying that I would like to underline our basic approach to engagement with Africa. Basic approach to Africa remains one of partnership. It remains one of maximizing mutual benefit. It remains one which is based on mutual needs and mutual strengths and is part of the larger political context of the relationships that India has had with Africa, the brotherly relationships essentially which we have had for a very very long time and especially after India’s Independence.

I am going to stop here and hand over to Akbar who can take it from there. Thank you.

Additional Secretary & Chief Coordinator (India-Africa Forum Summit) (Shri Syed Akbaruddin): I do not want to say much because as they say a photo says more than a thousand words. So, we have made a small film for you of about two minutes. I hope it can capture the essence, it is like a walk-through for the summit. So, you will just understand what is in store for you. Thank you.

(Film screened.)

Official Spokesperson: So, I think now you have got a very good picture of what is going to happen in terms of the programme elements, the partnership between India and Africa and also a glimpse of the logistical arrangements. After all, this is the largest international gathering that India has hosted at the Heads of State level after the 1983 NAM and CHOGM summits. So, with that I think let us open up the floor for questions. Please confine your questions to the India-Africa Forum Summit.

Question: How many African heads are coming and how many corporate heads will participate from India?

Additional Secretary & Chief Coordinator (IAFS): Along with the summit there is an exhibition which is being held in the same venue, and we have been able to get all our major business chambers of commerce on the same platform. So, CII, FICCI, Assocham and the PHD Chambers have all got together to mount this exhibition.

This exhibition will be held in the velodrome of the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex. It is structured on five major themes: energy, health, infrastructure, technology and innovation. As of now, more than 400 business delegates from Africa have registered and we expect all major Indian business companies who have an interest in Africa to participate. This exhibition will be held on the 27thand 29th.

In addition, on the 28th we will have a Business Forum for which again all the business associations have got together. This will be held at the Le Meridien hotel. We expect several African businessmen as well as African leaders to participate in the various sessions that they have there. I hope that answers your question.

Question: Could you let us know the list of participating countries and the Heads of State or Government they are going to be represented by?

Additional Secretary & Chief Coordinator (IAFS): I think it is going to be a long list if I am going to list that out to you. But I will answer your question. The Prime Minister of India has invited all of Africa. We expect representation from all countries that we have invited. I will not get into the level of representation, etc., but we have gone out of our way and in an exclusive manner invited all of Africa. We expect representation from all those who we have invited.

Secretary (West): Let me just add to that since you have questioned. These are Heads of State, Heads of Government. It would be wrong protocol for us to announce who is coming over there. Each one of them will announce that in due time. It is their privilege and their right. There are protocol issues, there are security issues. You will get all the information. There is no secret about it.

Question: …(Inaudible)…

Secretary (West): That also you will get.

Question: You said that bilateral trade between India and Africa is around USD 70 billion. But when we compare this with other countries like China who has got USD 200 billion bilateral trade, what is the reason for India lagging behind?

Secretary (West): Ranjeet, perhaps you are in the comparison business, I am not. I would rather be in the promotion business. I think we have done extremely well. As I told you, from 2001 to 2015 India’s trade has expanded 20 times. I am also not very certain of some of the figures that you mentioned. So, I would suggest you double check that.

No matter what other countries may or may not be able to do, each country has its own strength, each country has its own potential and each country has its own possibilities in terms of trade promotion. I think the fact that the figures Akbar has given you of 400 businessmen coming here and all major Indian companies investing so heavily in this event, not to mention the fact that there is a Trade Ministers’ meeting on the 23rd preceding the summit, shows that there is huge amount of interest. And I am sure that in the years to come this trade will only go northwards.

Question: Navtej, the President of Sudan is expected to be here. The International Criminal Court has been looking for him since 2009 for war crimes in Darfur and so on. Has the ICC requested India to arrest him or anything like that? If they do, what would be our reaction?

Secretary (West): Let me just say, Venkat just to remind you, that India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute behind the ICC.

Question: You have mentioned various sectors of cooperation between India and Africa but one important sector is agriculture. Many farmers especially from Punjab had been given the lease of lands in many African countries. Will their experiences be highlighted during this exhibition? If so, can you throw some light on this aspect?

Secretary (West): Actually when we talk of agriculture it is a very varied field, you excuse the word here. I think there is one basic engagement that there is arable land and you get people from outside to come and farm it. That is one level of engagement of agriculture. Frankly, I do not think this is the kind of thing that would get discussed at a summit level.

I think there are other levels of engagement here. There is a need for increased productivity. There is a need for smart agriculture. There is a need for environment-friendly farm mechanisation. There is a need for promoting gene pools and better seeds. These are some of the areas in which we are already engaged with Africa in terms of building institutions there of supplying expertise, of supplying software, and experts to go into that. I think that more or less is something which I am sure you will see represented well in the business exhibition and will no doubt also figure in the documentation that is produced.

Question: Naturally we are in deep partnership with Africa. But there have been reports that I have been following that there has been delays in deciding about the LoC, there had been hiccups, it takes one year at least to clear one LoC. Do we have any plan that this can be made faster?

Secretary (West): Akhilesh, I think we are with you in the thought that we must constantly seek to improve our procedures, we must try to make them more partner friendly. But we also have to do due diligence. When we are extending credit, our banks, our institutions have to do due diligence. Our partners on the other side, our African partners, have to do due diligence. The line of credit has several stages and there is an amount of project documentation that has to be created. Detailed feasibility reports, DPRs have to be created. Sometimes, some places you do not have the capacity to do all this, this ends in delays.

We are trying to constantly improve this process and I am sure I am hopeful that even in the next engagement with the African leadership and in the joint plan of action that will be worked out through the summit there will be clear improvements in this process.

Having said that let me say that we have not done too badly. You have got USD 7.4 billion on offer. You have USD 6.8 billion approved, you have USD 3.5 billion disbursed. This is not bad by any record. So, I would rather focus on the positive side. As I mentioned, 137 projects in 41 countries speaks for itself.

Question: Could you just give us a sense of the size of the trade in hydrocarbons with major African countries and future projections?

Secretary (West): I do not have an exact figure for all the hydrocarbons imports but I can tell you that we have a very significant oil import from some countries particularly Nigeria. I think that is about 15 per cent of our entire requirement but this figure is subject to correction, it is just off the top of my head.

A lot of the hydrocarbons is still in the potential. While we have Nigeria, we have Northern Africa, a lot of the hydrocarbons are recently discovered. For instance Somalia has just made recent discoveries. Mozambique has huge gas potential. But a lot of this needs major investment before it gets developed. So, it is more in the future. But as I told you, some of these countries, particularly Nigeria is a very significant supplier of oil for us.

Question: Navtej, a large number of African countries are battling terrorism, particularly the Islamic terrorism and there is lawlessness in a large number of areas. Are you going to talk about security and joint cooperation on terrorism, information sharing, maybe extradition, etc?

Secretary (West): Thank you for that question, I missed that point. Peace and security is a major plank of African thought today whether you see Agenda 2063 or you see the other discussions in the African Union. So, we have peacekeeping, we have maritime security, and we have defence and counterterrorism cooperation largely on a bilateral level. Given the nature of this cooperation, it works better on a bilateral level but within the rubric of the overall cooperation this will surely be discussed. We have Joint Working Groups on Counterterrorism with several countries. We have defence training arrangements with several countries. We have military training teams in several African countries. All that is already happening.

But you are absolutely right. The threat of Boko Haram or Al Shabab, whether it is on land, whether it is in terms of piracy dimension, is something we are very much aware of and on which we are cooperating very closely with a large number of African countries.

Question: The countries on the eastern coast of Africa are more significant in terms of India’s cooperation in maritime security and blue economy. Will there be a special session on this with these countries or on the agenda of maritime security and blue economy?

Secretary (West): Ashok, the structure of the summit being what it is, there is no potential for doing separate sessions. There are many areas on which we would like to spend a few hours discussing. The structure of the summit being what it is, we just have to wait for the experts to work this out and bring it out into the documents. Also, the purpose of the summit is to highlight areas on which then you continue to have discussions and special sessions in different formats later. So, while this is extremely important, we are would not be planning any sessions with a subset of countries of particular areas of interest simply because these are Heads of State and Heads of Government, they come for a short time and they have very very tight schedules.

Question: It has been four years since the last India-Africa summit was held. What would you tout as the achievements or any kind of forward movement in terms of India-Africa partnership in the four years since 2011?

Secretary (West): I thought I had gone through that but I will be happy to repeat. In these four years we have done 25,000 scholarships. These four years are also part of the USD 7.4 billion lines of credit. We have got about 40 institutions that we were to build off the ground in these four years. If you allow me to go back to seven years, I can even add that we have used up a grant element of USD 500 million.

Question: Many months back four Indians were abducted in Sirte in Libya. Two were reportedly back. What is the status of the other two? When the Head of Government or Head of State of Libya arrives, will that provide India platform to take that up?

Secretary (West): I think that is a specific question outside the rubric of the summit. So, I will request our Spokesman to get you an appropriate answer to that.

Official Spokesperson: You should be on my weekly briefing.

Question: Would there be a special discussion on the SDGs, the monitoring framework or financing for development?

Secretary (West): It would definitely form part of the deliberations as we discuss the declaration and we discuss the framework of cooperation. As I told you, sustainable development is a very important aspect of both Agenda 2063 and India’s own vision of its development paradigm. So, these issues will definitely be discussed.

Question: Aam taur par jo is tarah ke summit hain vo Vigyan Bhavan mein hote hain. Lekin is baar aap ise Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium mein kar rahe hain. Hamaare ko kisi ne bataya ki Pradhan Mantri ji ki yeh salah thi ki sitting arrangement aisa ho ki sabke saath unka eye contact ho is vajah se usko chuna gaya hai.

Additional Secretary & Chief Coordinator (IAFS): Santoshji, aap kayi baar Vigyan Bhavan gaye honge aur vahan ka stage bhi dekhe honge. Aapne kabhi dekha hai vahan par 56 log thahar sakte hain? Agar aap ne nahin dekha hai, toh uska javaab vo hi hai ki us stage par you cannot accommodate adequate number of Heads of State, Heads of Government or representatives. Isi liye humne koi aur tariqa dhunda hi. Lekin aapko main aashvaasan dena chahta hun ki jo aap dekhenge vahan par vo Vigyan Bhavan se bahut achha hoga.

Question: Thank you for the briefing. Secretary (West), you talked about the brotherly nature of India’s economic relations with Africa and the emphasis on partnership. Is India trying to position itself differently from China which has been criticised a lot for having a predatorial kind of approach to investment in Africa?

Secretary (West): I hate to straightjacket a full approach into, are we doing it vis-a-vis x, y or z. India by its very philosophy is on its own. Our approach is a consequence of our relationship with African countries at least for the last 65 years since our Independence. We have been partners with Africa in the capacity building since early days. We were there as the earliest peacekeepers. We were there with the major struggles that Africa had against colonialism and discrimination and apartheid. So, I think our approach for us to follow any other approach, an approach which is exploitative or an approach which is prescriptive, would go against the grain of India’s approach to Africa. So, without saying how it compares with anybody else, I think it stands on its own.

Question: There are media reports that we are inviting UAE and Singapore as observer countries.

Secretary (West): I think there are media reports perhaps but there are no observers in this structure. There is a group of special invitees which includes UAE, Singapore, UN Coordinator for Africa, the UN Global Head for HIV AIDS, and the President of the African Development Bank. So, it is a separate category essentially which is interested and focused in financing projects in Africa or addressing specific health, social issues. That is what that category is.

Question: This is the first India-Africa Forum Summit hosted by the Modi Government. Apart from the sheer scale of the summit where all 54 leaders have been invited, what are one or two big ticket outcomes, focus areas that will distinguish it from the previous summits? My second question is about the training institutes. You said you have been able to get 40 of them off the ground out of nearly 100 committed over the two summits. There is a perception that the process of implementation is rather slow because of a lot of issues. Are we looking at some mechanisms to fast-track the setting up of these institutes?

Secretary (West): Very good. Thank you, Manish. On the first aspect, I am not going to announce the outcomes 15 days before the summit. So, you will have to wait. I can assure you that a lot of thought is going on essentially in to see what outcomes we can have. In fact our negotiators have just returned this morning from Addis Ababa trying to work out the documents and they may have to go back again. This is still work in progress. So, let us wait.

On the second aspect, I agree with you. While we have been extremely successful in our lines of credit and our capacity building and training, the process of actually setting up institutions is a far slower process. The reason for that is that, again the previous question I answered about the approach of our partnership, this is a partnership approach. We work with the African Union who decide where the institutions are going to be put up. The nominated countries are expected because the idea was that we must have a certain African ownership in these institutions. Perhaps they would give the land in a particular case, we would put up the building, or they would give the building we would put up the machinery. So, putting all this together is taking time.

What are we doing? We have done a full analysis of each institute in the build-up to this summit, and we have tried to see which ones we can fast-track, which ones are not working at all, and we will continue our dialogue with the African Union to say should we drop these or is it a wrong location, do we go somewhere else with this money. So, this needs in-depth discussions. We have already done our part of it. And the process that these summits follow is that after the summit there is another meeting at which a joint action plan is worked out with the African side. So, that will be the occasion on which we will go through this list of 100 and decide what to do. There are certainly some which can be fast-tracked, some which need to be simply dropped, and some which are doing very well.

Question: Mr. Sarna, during the second India-Africa Forum Summit India had committed USD 5 billion worth projects out of which, I believe, USD 3.5 billion has been utilised. Why could the full amount not be utilised? Secondly, of the 54 African countries, I believe 43 African Missions are here in Delhi. But India’s presence in Africa is much less. Does it affect the bilateral relationship?

Secretary (West): To answer your second question first, we are constantly looking to increase our Missions in Africa. Naturally we have to work within restricted resources of manpower. I think all of you are abundantly aware of how India manages to keep its global presence despite being one of the smallest Foreign Services in the world.

On the first question, I think I explained this but let me try again. The total lines of credit offered from the first to the second summit were USD 7.4 billion, out of which USD 5 billion was offered in the second one. The total approved is USD 6.8 billion. So, it is not correct to say that the rest has been unused. It is approved, it is in the process, at various stages of implementation. The disbursement is USD 3.5 billion. So, the other disbursement of the approved amounts will happen. These amounts are disbursed at certain stages of implementation. That is the way I would try to put it.

Question: When would you have the after summit meet?

Secretary (West): That would be decided during the summit when we have the senior officials meeting on the 26th. Then we would decide when the African Union would like to come back for the discussions.

Official Spokesperson: This concludes the briefing on the India-Africa Forum Summit. Thank you all.

(Concluded)

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