Indian, African foreign ministers discuss UNSC reform, fighting terror (Roundup)

New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) Permanent seats for India and an African representative in the UN Security Council and fighting terrorism were among issues raised and discussed in the ministerial meeting of Indian and African foreign ministers on the second day of the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) on Tuesday and in the bilateral meetings that followed.

Addressing the ministerial meeting, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a strong pitch for early reforms of the UNSC, saying both India and Africa can no longer be excluded from their “rightful place” in the world body.

She said that unless there were more democratic global governance structures, a more equitable international security and development framework will continue to elude the world.

“India and Africa can no longer be excluded from their rightful place of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. How can we expect legitimacy from a governance structure that excludes the entire African continent and a country, which represents one-sixth of humanity?” she said.

The minister also said India and Africa countries were working to ensure provision of healthcare, education, employment, access to modern energy services, infrastructure, and connectivity between resources and markets.

“The similarity of our priorities and shared purpose provide special strength and context to our partnership. Providing universal access to primary healthcare and battling diseases are particularly urgent priorities for both India and Africa,” she said.

Sushma Swaraj also noted the challenge from the growing scourge of terrorism.

“The menace of non-state actors and cross-border terrorism has acquired a new dimension. The scale of this challenge is huge and undermines the peace and stability in our countries, which is essential for our development efforts,” she said, stressing the need to step up cooperation through intelligence exchange and adoption of the convention against terrorism.

Noting Indian credit lines totalling nearly $9 billion were fostering economic and infrastructural development of Africa, she said Indian companies were also increasingly investing in various countries of the continent.

Following the ministerial meeting, Sushma Swaraj held bilateral meetings with eight of her African counterparts – from the western African nations of Cameroon, Ghana and the island nation of Cape Verde, of the north African nation of Tunisia, the southern nations of Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the central African nations of Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.

Briefing reporters later, Sanjiv Kohli, joint secretary, West Africa, in the external affairs ministry, said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane sought more scholarships and technical assistance from India.

Others Sushma Swaraj met were Zimbabwe’s S.S. Mumbengegwi, Malawi’s George Chaponda, Cameroon’s Mbella Mbella, Cape Verde’s Jorge Homero Tolentino Araujo, Congo’s Raymond Tshibanda N’tungamulongo, Ghanian counterpart Hanna S. Tetteh, South Sudanese Barnaba Marial Benjamin and Tunisian Taieb Baccouche.

Kohli said the Zimbabwean foreign minister referred to agriculture and education as areas of priority and “we responded positively to that”, while the Malawian minister requested more scholarships and technical assistance in leather sector.

Cameroon sought India’s help in the fight against the Islamist terror group Boko Haram.

“They wanted India to help them in capacity building in the defence sector so that the combined forces that are right now combating Boko Haram can be strengthened,” Kohli said.

Sushma Swaraj also urged her South Sudanese counterpart to improve the security situation in his country so that ONGC Videsh which has investments in oilfields there could resume work.

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