India, Morocco sign agreements on culture, diplomatic training

New Delhi/Rabat, May 31 (IANS) India and Morocco signed two agreements on culture and diplomacy on Tuesday, the second day of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s three -day official visit to the northwest African nation at the invitation of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.

“Moving closer to Morocco. VP Ansari meets PM Abdullah Benkirane, holds delegation level talks in Rabat,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

“The two leaders witness exchange of agreements in culture and diplomatic traning,” he said in another tweet, adding that India honoured Benkirane with a traditional shawl.

Ansari’s is the first vice presidential visit from India to Morocco in nearly 50 years after the visit of then vice president Zakir Hussain in 1967.

He arrived in Rabat on Monday on the first leg of a two-nation tour that will also take him to Tunisia.

Ansari is being accompanied by union Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir and four members of parliament belonging to different parties.

Earlier, addressing a press conference on board the special aircraft to Rabat, Ansari said that India maintained traditionally strong ties with Morocco and Tunisia, both important partners in Africa.

He said that India has a substantial economic relationship with Morocco on account of the large quantity of phosphate which was imported by India and was critical for agriculture, according to statement issued by the vice-president’s office.

He mentioned that there were a few other sectors where cooperation was deepening such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals and information technology.

The vice president also indicated that Bollywood films might find ideal shooting locations in Morocco.

“India’s trade with Morocco stands at more than a $1 billion,” he said.

Touching upon India’s close ties with Tunisia, the vice president praised the success of the democratic process in the country, speaking of how different political parties managed to work together in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

With Tunisia as well, the vice president mentioned that phosphate was an important item of trade, and there was the potential to expand economic cooperation including the presence of Indian investments.

On a question on India’s cooperation with Morocco and Tunisia in tackling terrorism, the vice president said that India continued to work closely to share intelligence and security related information with these countries.

“Sharing real-time cyber security related information was crucial in the efforts to tackle terrorism,” he added.

Responding to a question on increasing presence of China in Africa, Ansari said that both countries had different approaches to engaging African nations, and that India did not see itself in competition with China.

He highlighted the historical connection, and the common struggle against decolonisation that India shared with the African continent, and that India had always sought to partner it in the development journey, particularly in areas like information technology, telecommunication and health.

–IANS

ab/vt

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