India to reinvigorate ties with African nations

NEW DELHI: India's prime minister hopes his visit this week to four African nations, some not visited by an Indian leader in more than three decades, will reinvigorate cooperation in energy, trade and investment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Mozambique on Thursday followed by South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

Brushing aside suggestions that India is trying to compete with China in Africa, an Indian External Affairs Ministry official, Amar Sinha, said several agreements are expected to be signed with each of the four countries during Modi's visit.

Sinha said these countries have been India's maritime neighbors across the Indian Ocean and act as gateways for Indian exporters and traders to landlocked African countries. Maritime security was an area of common interest.

Also, there is a sizeable Indian diaspora with 80,000 people of Indian origin in Kenya, 50,000 in Tanzania, 20,000 in Mozambique and more than a million in South Africa, he said.

Sreeram Chaulia, the dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs, said there was no competition between India and China in terms of influence in Africa.

China was concentrating on big infrastructure projects like building railroads, ports and highways in Africa. India, on the other hand, could help in developing small and medium industries and human resources in the fields of education, health and agriculture, Chaulia told The Associated Press.

"India needs money to build its own infrastructure," he said.

Stressing that energy and food security would also be key areas during Modi's visit, Sinha said that Mozambique would soon be the third largest exporter of natural gas after Qatar and Australia.

India is also hoping to sign civil aviation agreements for introducing direct flights as none of the Indian airlines have direct connectivity with Africa, he said.

India has been trying to control the prices of pulses, a staple diet for millions of its poor, which have doubled in the past 18 months because of two successive drought years.

On Tuesday, Modi's Cabinet approved doubling of import of pulses from Mozambique to 200,000 tons annually over the next five years. A long-term agreement for import of pulses from Mozambique is expected to be signed on Thursday, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

In South Africa, Modi will have meetings with President Jacob Zuma and other senior leaders on Friday and Saturday. He is also expected to visit Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban.