New Delhi: Seeking to expand India’s footprint and forge closer ties with Africa, the Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu concluded his tour to Comoros and Sierra Leone and returned to Delhi today.
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. Shri Naidu was accompanied by Shri Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Union Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Shri Ramvichar Netam, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and senior officials.
Upon Shri Naidu’s arrival at Moroni, the capital of Comoros, on October 10, the President of the Union of Comoros, Mr. Azali Assoumani broke the protocol to personally receive Shri Naidu at the airport.
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”, Shri 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 Vice President held delegation-level talks and a tête-à-tête with Mr. Azali Assoumani. 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, Shri 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.
Shri Naidu also thanked the President of the Union of Comoros for the support in the fight against terrorism as well as for reforms in the UN Security Council, including India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
At Moroni, Shri Naidu also addressed the Parliament and received a standing ovation for his speech.
Soon after his arrival in Freetown, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, Ms. Nabeela Fareeda Tunis called on the Vice President.
On October 13, the Vice President had a tête-à-tête with the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mr. Julius Maada Bio, and later held delegation-level talks with him and both the dignitaries witnessed the signing of agreements. Both the leaders exchanged views on multilateral issues and decided to build on the existing cooperation at UNSC and other multilateral fora.
Observing that our positions are almost identical on various international issues, including UNSC reforms and the need to combat terrorism collectively, the Vice President appreciated Sierra Leone’s role in international affairs, especially as the Chair of the African Union Committee of Ten on UNSC reforms (C-10 group).
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.
Announcing the decision to establish a High Commission in Sierra Leone, Vice President said that India has a special relationship with Sierra Leone.
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, Shri 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.
He said that decision was taken to reactivate the US $ 15 million Line of Credit for a potable water project. The Vice President also informed President Bio that India would be happy to offer line of credit for construction of a new President’s Office complex in Freetown.
The Vice President expressed his happiness on Sierra Leone joining the International Solar Alliance in which India is playing a leading role to enable rapid deployment of solar energy globally and to facilitate the transfer of technology.
The same day, Shri Naidu also addressed the Indian community and urged the Indian diaspora to effectively counter the disinformation on Jammu and Kashmir. “It is high time to take up a campaign to stop this disinformation”, the Vice President added.
Shri Naidu said the recent decision to reorganize Jammu and Kashmir was intended to extend all the laws and benefits of developmental programmes to this region and ensure inclusive and all-round development of the State.
Shri Naidu reminded the diaspora that India is one of the most inclusive and tolerant democratic countries in the world in which the interests of all groups including minorities are taken care of with empathy and deep appreciation.
On October 14, Dr. Mathew Sahr Nyuma, the Acting Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone called on the Vice President before he emplaned Delhi.
This visit was the second one by the Vice President of India to Africa. Earlier in November 2018, Shri Naidu had visited Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Malawi as part of strengthening bilateral ties with those countries.