Mon, Dec 5, 2016 | updated 07:54 AM IST

PM kicks off four-nation tour to reinvigorate bilateral ties with partners in Africa

Updated: Jul 07, 2016 00:22 IST

New Delhi, July 7 (ANI): Aiming to further strengthen and reinvigorate bilateral ties with partners in Africa that were renewed at the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in October last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a four-nation tour of the African continent 15 minutes past midnight. His first stop will be Mozambique capital Maputo.

During his five-day four-nation tour to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya, energy, food security, trade, maritime cooperation and diaspora interactions will high on the Prime Minister's agenda.

The Prime Minister is set to touch down at Maputo International Airport early on Thursday morning, and will be the first Indian head of government to visit Mozambique after 34 years. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi was the last to visit that country in 1982.

Prime Minister Modi will be given a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Office at 9.30 a.m (.Mozambique time), after which, he will hold a "restricted meeting" with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi. This will be followed by delegation-level talks, a signing of agreements and an issue of a joint statement.

The Union Cabinet had on Tuesday given its approval for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Mozambique on drug demand reduction and prevention of illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals and related matters. The MoU is aimed at enhancing mutual cooperation between the two countries in combating illicit trafficking in narcotics, psychotropic substances and their precursors through an exchange of information, expertise and capacity building.

The cabinet also approved a long-term contract by signing an MoU with Mozambique for the import of pulses either through the private channels, or, via Government-to-Government (G2G) sales through state agencies nominated by both nations.

Besides, Mozambique is the third largest exporter of natural gas after Qatar and Australia.

Thereafter, Prime Minister Modi will attend a state banquet hosted by President Nyusi in the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Office.

About 2.10 p.m., the Prime Minister will visit the National Assembly, where he will receive a ceremonial welcome and will be introduced to the members, followed by a meeting with President of the National Assembly Veronica Macamo and signing of visitor's book.

Prime Minister Modi will also visit the Maluana Science and Technology Park and the Centre for Innovation and Technological Development (CITD), where he will interacts with students.

Before departing for South African capital city of Pretoria at 6.20 p.m., the Prime Minister will interact with Indian Diaspora.

"On Thursday, 7th July I will be in Mozambique. The aim of my visit is to increase cooperation and boost cultural linkages. I will meet President Filipe Nyusi and hold extensive talks with him. My other programmes include a meeting with Ms. Veronica Macamo, the President of the National Assembly, and a visit to the S&T Park, Maluana, where I will interact with students. I will also interact with the Indian community briefly," said Prime Minister Modi in a statement issued here.

MEA official spokesperson Vikas Swarup had earlier last week said "From 8th to 9th July in South Africa, the Prime Minister will have meetings with President Jacob Zuma and other senior leaders across the political spectrum to further enhance our historical relations with South Africa. With South Africa we cooperate and work closely also in multi-lateral fora like BRICS, IBSA, G20 and BASIC."

The Prime Minister is also expected to visit Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Durban during the visit.

Pietermaritzburg is the place where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of the train compartment.

The Prime Minister will have meetings with President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli in Tanzania on July10 to further enhance mutual cooperation and understanding on major issues of common interest.

The Prime Minister will be in Kenya the next day where he will have bilateral discussions with President Kenyatta.

Prime Minister Modi will also address students in the University of Nairobi during the visit.

"The visit of the Prime Minister will provide opportunities to build on close contacts at the highest political level and enhance mutual cooperation and understanding on major issues of common interest," Swarup added.

"This is the third segment of high-level visits that was planned to Africa as a follow up to IAFS. The first of course was of the Vice President from May 30 to June 5 to Morocco and Tunisia, followed by our own President going to Ghana Ivory Coast and Namibia from June 12-18. So, in the first half of this year, this is the third segment, which covers four countries in five days," said Amar Sinha, Secretary, Economic Relations, MEA, at a media briefing on Monday.

Underlining the importance of the first visit by Prime Minister Modi to the African mainland, Sinha said, "All these four countries, if you look at the map, are our maritime neighbours across the Indian Ocean. These are all our gateways to the (African) mainland and a number of landlocked countries which are also our important partners. So, basically the Indian traders also rely on ports in these countries whether in Mombasa, Beira or further down in South Africa."

Talking about the Prime Minister's interaction with the Indian diaspora, he said: "All these three countries, of course varying degrees, but we have sizable diaspora: Kenya 80,000, Tanzania 50,000, Mozambique 20,000 and of course South Africa has more than a million. The Prime Minister will be meeting the diaspora in all the four countries, but both in Johannesburg and Kenya, he will be addressing them in a large format, because the response was so overwhelming that we had over 10,000-15,000 registrations in a day by people who wanted to come to listen to him."

"Besides these, the maritime dimension also dictates the choices of these countries, which are very-very important, as they are all members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). So, we are interested in blue economy and maritime security as well," he added.

Sinha further said these countries are also members of International Solar Alliance, which is our initiative. "So we are looking at consolidating the gains that we have made at the IAFS," he added.

Noting this is the first visit by the Prime Minister to the African mainland, Sinha said, "All these visits are happening after a long-long gap: Mozambique after 34 years, where Mrs (Indira) Gandhi was the last to visit; Kenya after 35 years; and South Africa after 10 years. Tanzania was visited by former prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2011." (ANI)