India, Rwanda likely to sign agreements in defence, agriculture during Narendra Modi’s Africa tour: A look at bilateral ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to leave for a five-day three-nation tour of Africa on Monday afternoon and will first arrive in Rwanda marking the first ever visit by an Indian prime minister.
India elevated its ties with Rwanda to that of a Strategic Partnership in January 2017. The country is seen as an important gateway to eastern Africa and is also a recipient of Indian lines of credit of nearly $400 million and of Indian training and scholarship programmes.
During Modi’s visit, two more lines of credit are expected to be signed – one worth $100 million for industrial parks and a similar amount for agriculture and irrigation.
Briefing the media, TS Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the MEA, said India will open its first mission in Rwanda very soon. “We expect agreements to be concluded in the areas of defence, dairy cooperation, leather, agriculture and culture,” Tirumurti said.
In 1999, Rwanda established a High Commission in New Delhi and the first Rwandan High Commissioner to India was appointed in 2001.
The president of Rwanda’s Senate Bernard Makuza has said that Modi’s visit will be a “big boost” for bilateral ties and underlined that his country was seeking collaboration with India in sectors such as agriculture and energy.
In Rwanda, Modi will visit Rweru model village to gift 200 cows as part of a programme overseen by President Paul Kagame wherein the poorest families get dairy cows from the government and the first female calf born of the cow is gifted to a neighbour to promote brotherhood. Tirumurti called this an “important element” of the prime minister’s programme.
“The gifting of cows is not just an economic contribution, but also an expression of India’s gratitude to Rwanda for treating Indian community well,” The Indian Expressquoted an official as saying.
India’s bilateral relations with Rwanda got a fillip with Kigali becoming a member of these African Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Rwanda also opted to become a member of the Commonwealth in 2009 even though it has not been a British protectorate or a British colony.
Bilateral cooperation and trade
The two countries have signed an MoU with Rwanda for promoting inter-parliamentary dialogue. The two sides also agreed to collaborate in regional and international multilateral parliamentary bodies in furtherance of the relations between the two countries.
India and Rwanda also signed three MoUs on innovation, aviation and visa requirements last year during then vice-president Hamid Ansari’s visit to the east African country. Both the countries also agreed to set up an entrepreneurship development centre in Kigali and to boost aviation, Rwanda’s state airlines Rawanda Air will start services to India.
The development centre will be committed to nurture the spirit of entrepreneurship in the country through education, training and business advisory services.
Rwanda’s prime minister Anastase Murekezi had said that the three MoUs will boost economic and business ties between the two nations. “We have 54 years of fruitful bilateral relationship. Rwanda and India share important ties and we are committed to make the relationship grow stronger,” he had said.
In February 2017, India and Rwanda also signed an agreement for the exemption of visa for diplomatic and official passport holders. Under the pan Africa e-network project, tele-medicine and tele-education centres were established in Rwanda in 2009 with an aim to enable Rwandan doctors consult their Indian counterparts. The initiative was aimed at giving Rwanda access to medical care and education from India at a fraction of cost.
In terms of trade, Indian has consistently been one of the top import sources for Rwanda and the major items of India’s exports to Rwanda include pharmaceuticals, vehicles, textiles, electrical machinery, optical and other precision instruments and plastics among others.
Kagame had emphasised Rwanda’s readiness to discuss and engage in business with investors from India and all across the world at the opening ceremony of the eighth Vibrant Gujarat Summit. In the joint press conference during the visit of Kagame to India, the two sides agreed to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in culture, tourism, people-to-people links.
India also welcomed Rwanda as the 25th co-signatory country to Modi’s initiative of International Solar Alliance and the two leaders also recalled the solar electrification of 35 schools in rural Rwanda under a grant from Government of India as an example of south-south cooperation.
Xi Jinping also in Rwanda
Chinese president Xi Jinping is also visiting the east African country before leaving for South Africa to attend the BRICS summit. He is expected to visit a memorial for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and sign bilateral agreements on Monday.
Makuza had termed the visits of both Xi and Modi as “very important” and said that there was no conflict in having relations based on mutual interest with both nations.
When asked about the ‘competition’ between India and China, Tirumurti was quoted as saying by India Today, “We are not competing with China in Africa. Our relationship with Africa goes back to the time of Gandhi,” he said.
Both Modi and Xi will attend the 10th BRICS leaders’ Summit which has the theme “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration with Developing Countries for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” this year.
Modi, along with other BRICS leaders, will participate in the restricted session, plenary session, leaders’ retreat, outreach with leaders from Africa and outreach with leaders from the global South.