New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday embarks on a three-nation tour of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Namibia that is part of India’s outreach to Africa to consolidate ties with the continent.
The tour to the countries on the western coast of Africa is designed to go well beyond the ceremonies and symbolisms.
Using his long years of experience when he was the finance, defence and external affairs minister that brought him in contact with African leaders, Mukherjee is expected to push economic and security content in his talks.
The visit comes 10 days after Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to the northern African countries of Morocco and Tunisia, and also months after the successful India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi last October, which was attended by more than 40 African leaders.
Adding to the traditional areas like trade and cooperation in the field of science and technology, the President’s focus will be on three relatively new contexts -p- security relationship, energy and combat against terrorism.
Mukherjee’s first stop will be Ghana. He will leave for Ivory Coast on June 14. He moves to Namibia, the third leg of the tour on June 15 and heads for home on June 17.
India’s outreach to Africa, mostly in the form of development assistance, comes amid China’s fast inroads in building infrastructure and investments in the vast mineral-rich continent.
The visit will also help cement India’s close links with African nations in the context of the support to India’s candidature for a permanent seat in a reformed United Nations Security Council, and on other multilateral bodies such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Mukherjee has played the firefighter while on state visits. During his visit to China last month, he sought to convince the Chinese leadership why it should support India’s NSG membership.
The visit also comes in the wake of recent incidents of violence against African nationals, especially in New Delhi, and the President will have an important role to play in assuaging concerns voiced in that regard.
The Indian government has moved to assure African nationals of their safety and security in India and Mukherjee also pitched in with counsel. Thousands come from African states to study in India.
The President’s first stop on the tour will be Accra, where he will be received by Vice-President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, and will be accorded a traditional Ghanaian welcome. Some agreements are likely to be inked.
The President will address a joint business forum and the students and faculty of the University of Ghana, besides have an interaction with the Indian community at a reception organised at the Indian high commission.
He will also unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi gifted by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. He is likely to visit the India-Ghana Kofi Annan Institute of Excellence, named after the former UN Secretary General.
In the second leg of his visit starting June 14, President Mukherjee will arrive in Abidjan, where he will have a meeting with Republic of Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara and also sign a number of agreements.
In the last leg of his visit, the President will arrive in the Namibian capital Windhoek on June 15.
Discussions will be held on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
Uranium supply would be on the agenda as Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium in the world.
It had agreed to sell nuclear fuel to India in 2009. However, that did not happen, as Namibia cited a 2009 African version of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Pelindaba Treaty, which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world.
India has age-old ties born out of the fight against colonialism with Ghana and Namibia. Mukherjee will pay tributes at the memorial of the founder of Ghanaian independence, Kwame Nkrumah, a comrade of Jawaharlal Nehru and others of the Non-Aligned Movement, during his visit to Accra.