Following is the full text of the statement to media by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee upon the conclusion of his State visit to Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Namibia (June 12 to 18, 2016). The statement was made on board the aircraft during the President’s return to New Delhi from Windhoek yesterday (June 17, 2016):
“I have concluded successful State visits to Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Namibia from June 12-18, 2016. My delegation included Shri Jitendra Singh, Minister of State and two Members of Parliament, Shri SS Ahluwalia and Shri Mansukh Lal Mandaviya. Senior officials of Rashtrapati Bhavan and MEA were also part of my delegation.
My visits to Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire were the first ever by an Indian President. The visit to Namibia was the second by an Indian President and after a gap of 21 years. These visits reflect the importance that India attaches to enhancing our bilateral relations with these important countries of Africa. They also indicate our determination to provide fresh momentum to India’s engagement with Africa in follow up to the successful organization of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) in New Delhi in October, 2015.
The warmth with which I was received in all these three countries is testament to the unparalleled and historic bonds of friendship that exist between India and Africa. We seek today to build on this strong foundation and forge new relationships based on shared values for mutual benefit. The visits were an opportunity for me to reiterate that India will always stand by Africa. I was happy to note the good utilization of past assistance from India. I urged the governments of the three countries to take maximum advantage of announcements made by India for Africa during IAFS-III, especially the US $ 10 billion additional concessional lines of credit, enhanced ITEC and ICCR scholarships as well as US $ 600 million grant assistance.
I briefed the leaderships of these countries on the initiatives of our Government in various fields and explored avenues for enhanced cooperation in the bilateral, regional and international context. I raised the need for reforms of the United Nations, particularly the UN Security Council. There was agreement that the present structure, does not reflect current realities and that reforms have been delayed for too long. The leaders of all three countries expressed the view that there is need for urgent reform of the UN. India, with one-sixth of world’s population as well as the African continent must be represented in the UN Security Council.
In my interaction, I highlighted the danger posed by terrorism to the entire civilized world. I conveyed that the scourge of terrorism must be fought jointly, without any distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorism. I called for an early conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). My views were fully endorsed by all interlocutors.
All three countries sought increased investments from India to tap the full potential of trade and economic relations. I assured them that both public and private sector companies in India are enthusiastic about the opportunities in their countries. I requested them to create a conducive environment for investment and initiate a dialogue with our industry.
I interacted with the Indian community in all three countries complimented them on the goodwill and high reputation they enjoy in their host countries. I urged them to continue to serve as an important bridge between the people of India and their host countries.
India shares a long historical relationship with Ghana that goes back to its pre-independence days. Our relations are rooted in the shared global vision of our founding fathers, the mutual goodwill between our peoples and the values of democracy, pluralism and inclusiveness.
I met President John Dramani Mahama, as well as all his key ministers. I found tremendous goodwill and strong desire to further strengthen relations with India. Three agreements/ MOUs were signed on exemption from visa requirement for holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports, on the establishment of a Joint Commission and between the Foreign Service Institutes of the two countries. We decided that current level of trade does not reflect the potential of bilateral trade and should be increased to at least US $ 5 billion by 2020.
I paid floral tributes at the mausoleum of Ghana’s founding President and father of the nation, late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who along with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and others, founded the Non-Aligned Movement. I unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the University of Ghana. I also planted a sapling at the Flagstaff House, the Ghanaian Presidential Complex which is an iconic building constructed with Indian assistance. I addressed a Joint Business Forum where I highlighted the fact that ‘Brand India’ is a trusted name across countries as it adds value to local resources while rejuvenating and invigorating local companies. It brings appropriate technologies and has the adaptability to absorb local talent.
I also addressed the students and faculty of the University of Ghana where I pointed out that the quest for innovation and yearning for positive change of young minds are the critical mass around which nation’s hopes and aspirations are built. I called for a brighter, innovative and updated narrative of India-Ghana relations. My itinerary included an interaction with the students, faculty and alumni of India-Ghana Kofi Annan Centre of IT excellence, a wonderful example of what India –Africa collaboration can achieve. I was happy to learn that the Centre is focused on research and application of science & ICT for finding local solutions to national issues. I told them India is committed to working with partners in Africa in all areas where we can help them use and adopt relevant, cost effective technologies, share best practices and realize their goals of technological development.
Leaders of Ghana expressed interest in expanding cooperation across the board, including in new areas like civil nuclear energy, renewable energy, SME sector, railways and sustainable agriculture. In view of the good utilization of our capacity building programmes and their popularity, I announced an increase in ITEC slots from 250 to 300 and ICCR scholarships from 16 to 40. I also announced further assistance of US $ 1 million for the India-Ghana Kofi Annan Centre for IT excellence. The Government of Ghana expressed deep appreciation for India’s generous developmental assistance which amounts to approximately US $ 450 million in the last 5-6 years.
India enjoys excellent relations with the entire political leadership of Ghana. I wished its people the very best for a peaceful and successful conduct of elections in Ghana in November, 2016.
I was received in Cote d’Ivoire, with great warmth and affection by President Alassane Ouattara. The entire cabinet was also present at the airport to receive me. President Ouattara conferred on me the highest national honour, the Grande Croix Commandeur in the National Merit Order. I accepted, the same with humility, on behalf of the people of India. I was accorded a civic reception by the Governor of Abidjan in the presence of distinguished citizens and traditional chiefs of the city. They presented me a symbolic key to the city of Abidjan, conferred honorary citizenship and made me an Advisor to the traditional chiefs, with the name ‘Assito’ which means ‘The Example’. I addressed a Joint Business Forum where agreements were signed between the CII and CEPICI as well as between Tata Motors and SUTRA for supply of 500 buses.
A Headquarters agreement for opening of a regional office of EXIM Bank of India in Abidjan was signed during the visit. The Cote d’Ivoire leadership acknowledged and appreciated India’s developmental assistance. India has till date extended lines of credit amounting to US $ 136.2 million in diverse fields such as agriculture processing, transport, rural electrification and transmission, fisheries etc. We agreed during the visit to work to double current bilateral trade by 2020, taking it to around US $ 2 billion.
It was decided to organize a meeting of the Joint Commission later this year to follow up on discussions held during the visit and to identify new areas to further strengthen bilateral ties between our two countries, especially trade and economic relations. We agreed to deepen cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism. I extended an invitation to President Ouattara to pay a State visit to India which he happily accepted.
I interacted with President Dr. Hage Geingob, Prime Minister Dr Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, and a large number of senior Ministers in Namibia. It was a particular privilege to renew my acquaintance with founding President and father of the nation, Sam Nujoma and to meet former President Hifikepunye Pohamba. I was deeply honoured to be invited to address a Joint Session of the Namibian Parliament. I pointed out in my speech that the India-Namibia relationship has been built on the firm foundation of mutual trust and understanding. I called for increased parliamentary exchanges between the two countries.
I found in all my meetings with the Namibian leadership gratitude towards India for the diplomatic and moral support given during its independence struggle. I briefed the Namibian leadership on the initiatives of our Government in various fields. We explored possibilities of new synergy in areas such as defence, energy, minerals and IT. We also discussed the need to expand cooperation in renewable energy, agriculture, capacity building, development cooperation and multilateral issues such as UN reforms, terrorism, climate change and sustainable development.
I raised the issue of supply of Uranium to India and was assured by President Geingob that Namibia would explore ways to supply the same. It was agreed that a technical team from both sides would meet at the earliest to discuss the way forward.
I laid a wreath at Heroes’ Acre, a memorial to Namibian men and women who fought for its independence and visited the Independence Memorial Museum. I also addressed the Namibia University of Science & Technology where I highlighted India’s achievements in the field of education, economy, agriculture and science & technology. I called on students to create a vibrant new landscape of innovation and technological development in Namibia.
I announced an increase of ITEC slots from 125 to 200, a grant of US$ 20,000 for the Indira Gandhi Maternity Clinic, assistance of 1000 tonnes of rice for mitigating the drought situation as well as 100 tonnes of essential medicines. Two MOUs were signed in my presence between the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management (NIPAM) and Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) and on the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology in Namibia.
I believe my visits to these three countries have helped reinvigorate our already strong and time-tested bilateral relations. They provide fresh momentum to our overall relations with Africa. We have through these visits conveyed the message that India takes its engagement with Africa seriously and intends to follow up with determination on the announcements made at IAFS III. India is committed to further consolidate our cooperation with all African countries. Drawing lessons from our own colonial experience, we will continue to focus on capacity building, with a view to strengthening their self-reliance. We will remain an active partner in Africa’s nation building efforts even as we strengthen our political, economic and trade relations with all 54 countries of the continent.”