PM Singh leaves for Ethiopia and Tanzania on Monday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves on Monday on a six-day visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania to inject a fresh impetus in India`s strategic ties with African countries and discuss ways to effectively combat the twin threats of terrorism and piracy.

Singh, who will first head for Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union, for the Second Africa-India Forum Summit to be attended by 15 African countries, is also expected to make a strong pitch for UN reforms.

Like India, Africa too feels the adverse impact of terrorism and piracy is a phenomenon that affects both Africa and India and the leaders will discuss "ways and means of reducing and eliminating it," Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, said ahead of the visit.

New Delhi has voiced its serious concerns over the threats posed by Somali pirates since about 11 per cent of seafarers engaged by international shipping companies are Indian nationals, some of whom have been taken hostage.

There have been over 200 attacks, including about 70 successful hijackings and ransoms believed to exceed 50 million dollars have been paid to the pirates for securing the release of hostages and ships.

Singh will co-chair the Summit with the President of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in his current capacity as chairperson of the AU.

The leaders will discuss significant aspects of the India-Africa partnership with the objective of enhancing its and widening its ambit for mutual benefit.

The Summit is expected to come out with the Addis Ababa Declaration setting out the roadmap for further consolidating the strategic partnership between India and the African Union. An Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation will also be firmed up at the Summit.

New Delhi`s push for getting a strong foothold in Africa comes in the midst of major initiatives being taken by China and Japan to make deep inroads there.

"Our relationship with Africa stands on its own", says Katju going on to add,"India is not engaged in competition in Africa with any other country. We are friends and we will continue to be friends and brothers. We have a historical relationship."

On UN reforms, India and all the countries of the African Union share the view that there is such a need including expansion in permanent and non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

India wants Africa to get a permanent seat in the Security Council. African countries too have supported India for a permanent membership in the UNSC.

The countries that have been asked to participate in the Summit are Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Namibia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Swaziland.

On a mission to reach out to the African countries, the Prime Minister is expected to make a number of announcements like setting up of four regional centres of excellence, vocational training centres in African countries, skill training and an additional Line of Credit.

Singh will have meetings with a number of African leaders on the margins of the Summit on May 24 and 25.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur and his delegation at the Summit will include External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

The Summit will be preceded by the Foreign Ministers` meeting tomorrow.

The India-Africa historic relationship, which is rooted in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid, has evolved into a multifaceted engagement.

"This comprehensive paradigm of cooperation is premised on Africa`s own aspirations for developing regional and Pan-African institutions and development programmes," says Katju.

India`s cooperation with African countries cover, among others, the fields of human resources and institutional capacity building and education, science and technology, agricultural productivity and food security besides development of health, infrastructure and information communication technologies.

The Prime Minister will release a commemorative stamp, a book titled `Two Billion Dreams: Celebrating India-Africa Friendship` and a special Summit edition of the journal Africa Quarterly.

He will later hold detailed discussions with his Ethiopian counterpart Meles Zenawi on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues.

During his visit to Ethiopia, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister, Singh will also address the Ethiopian Parliament.

India and Ethiopia enjoy a warm and cordial relationship covering a wide spectrum. In the last two decades, Indian investments have been upwards of USD 4.5 billion in areas such as agriculture, floriculture, engineering, plastics manufacturing, cotton and textiles, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and ICT.

India has extended Lines of Credit of around USD 700 million for Ethiopia`s development process. A large part of this is towards development of the sugar industry.

The two sides are expected to sign a significant agreement relating to Avoidance of Double Taxation during the visit.

Singh will then embark on a three-day bilateral visit to Tanzania from May 26, the first Head of Government level visit from India since 1997.

He will have wide-ranging discussions with President Jakaya Kikwete, who is on his second term following the general elections in 2010, to take the bilateral relationship forward in a comprehensive manner.

India`s relations with Tanzania are viewed as positive and constructive and based on consultation on issues of international and regional concerns.

For India, Tanzania is an important partner in Africa.

The two countries have played a significant role in the process of de-colonisation and the struggle against apartheid and were active participants in developing the process of South-South Cooperation for the benefit of the developing world.

India is the second largest investor in Tanzania with total cumulative investments of USD 1.3 billion (till 2009).

The bilateral trade is over USD 1.1 billion in 2010 and Indian imports covered a number of agricultural commodities.

There will also be a focus on the two countries` partnership in the development process in Tanzania through education, capacity building and infrastructure development.