Modi meets African leaders, stresses on UN reforms

New Delhi, Oct 28 (IANS) The need for UN Security Council reform featured in almost all bilateral meetings Prime Minister Narendra Modi had with African leaders on Wednesday, with the leaders dubbing the world body’s current structure as “outdated”.

India and Africa were “on the same page” on the Security Council reform, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters after the meetings.

Modi on Wednesday met 19 leaders from Africa, who are in Delhi for the third India-Africa Forum Summit. Swarup said 19 bilateral meetings in a day was a “record”.

The prime minister will hold bilateral meetings on Thursday and Friday as well.

The MEA spokesman said the issue of terrorism and trade figured in many meetings and the prime minister pushed for adoption of comprehensive convention against terrorism to strengthen fight against the menace.

He said Modi felt that countries should not get sidetracked by the manner in which terrorism was defined.

During his meeting with Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, Modi raised the issue of 11 Indian crew members of a ship who are in jail in Nigeria and called for judicial process to be expedited.

The prime minister remarked during one of the meetings that India and Africa were made for each other. He said both India and Africa had similar demographic profiles and each had some strengths which can be used to mutual advantage.

To the demand from several African countries for increase in scholarships, Swarup said that the Indian prime minister’s response was very positive.

He said the prime minister was “personally passionate” about increase in cooperation in human resource.

Asked about the defence cooperation sought by some African countries, he said it was largely restricted to training.

Swarup said India would also be happy to look at any specific demands concerning defence needs.

Tanmaya Lal, joint secretary (East and South Africa), Ministry of External Affairs, who also briefed the media, said the prime minister’s first meeting was with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

“The UN reforms figured prominently as also fight against terrorism,” Lal said.

He said Ghana president John Dramani Mahama sought an increase in Indian scholarships and making conditions of line of credit more favourable.

The two sides also discussed cyber and maritime security.

King of Swaziland Mswati III sought more cooperation in agriculture and renewable energy.

Benin President Boni Yayi discussed proposal to set up a cyber city and boost skill development.

In his meeting with Modi, Buhari said India was Nigeria’s biggest oil importer and sought cooperation in the field of defence.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta discussed issues related to health care, generic drugs and capacity building.

In his meeting with Ugandan President Yoheri Museveni, Modi referred to his visit to the country as the then chief minister of Gujarat. There was reference to defence cooperation in the meeting and ways to boost cooperation in education.

Lesotho Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili sought increase in training slots for its defence personnel and increased cooperation in agriculture.

Modi thanked Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh for his cooperation in evacuation of Indian nationals from Yemen. Djibouti had opened their port to Indian ships during the crisis.

Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou and Modi discussed the sale of uranium to India. The two sides also discussed issues concerning security and counter-terrorism.

Chad President Idriss Deby Itno said his country was looking forward to open a mission in India.

South African president Jacob G. Zuma and Modi discussed a range of issues related to structures of global governance.

Modi and his counterpart from Mozambique, Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, discussed issues relating to energy, defence and security, water and renewable energy.

Modi also met Sao Tome and Principe’s Prime Minister Patrice Emery Trovoada, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Guinean President Alpha Conde and Botswana Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi.

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