New Delhi: Seeking to expand India’s footprint and forge closer ties with Africa, the Vice President of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu concluded his tour to Comoros and Sierra Leone and returned to Delhi.
It was the first-ever visit by such a high-level Indian dignitary to Comoros, an archipelago situated off the Southeast coast of Africa and to Sierra Leone. Venkaiah Naidu was accompanied by Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Union Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Ramvichar Netam, Member of Parliament and senior officials.
In his first engagement in Comoros, the Vice President addressed the Indian Diaspora and urged them to join in scripting New India’s growth story along with three other Ds—Democracy, Demand and Demographic Dividend. He also invited the Indian diaspora of Comoros to attend the next Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas of 2021.
On October 11, the President of Comoros, in an extraordinary gesture of friendship, conferred the ‘Order of the Green Crescent’, the highest civilian honour of the Union of Comoros on the Vice President.
Accepting the honour “with utmost humility on behalf of 1.3 billion Indians”, Naidu declared that he was touched by the extra-ordinary gesture and said: “a common vision unites us, a common ocean joins us–it is an ocean of friendship and a vision of growing together”.
On the same day,the two countries signed six MoUs for cooperation in various fields including defense, health and medicine, arts and culture and tele-education (e-Vidya Bharati) and tele-medicine (e-Arogya Bharati).
During the delegation-level talks, Naidu asserted that the recent decision in regard to the re-organization of the Jammu and Kashmir state was purely an internal matter of India and does not change any external border. The decision was made to focus on accelerating development of Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
The Vice President called for enhancing defence ties in maritime domain between India and the islands nation of Comoros as part of collaborative security architecture in the Indian Ocean. “As Indian Ocean countries, our maritime security is interlinked”, he added.
On October 13, the Vice President had a tête-à-tête with the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, and later held delegation-level talks with him and both the dignitaries witnessed the signing of agreements.
India and Sierra Leone signed 6 agreements to expand the bilateral relations in various fields and also agreed to push for UNSC reforms so that one-third of mankind residing in Africa and India occupy their rightful place in decision making bodies of the UN.
Declaring that India’s developmental assistance to Sierra Leone so far aggregated to US$ 217.5 million for various sectors including agriculture, energy, water resources and telecommunication, Naidu announced a Line of Credit to the tune of US$ 30 million for Irrigation development in Tomabum to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
This visit was the second one by the Vice President of India to Africa. Earlier in November 2018, Venkaiah Naidu had visited Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Malawi as part of strengthening bilateral ties with those countries.