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Media Briefing by Secretary (ER) during visit of Vice President to Zimbabwe

November 04, 2018

Under Secretary (DD): Namaskar, good afternoon and welcome to the media briefing on the second leg of the visit of the Hon’ble Vice President to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi. To brief you about the engagements of the Hon’ble Vice President in Zimbabwe we have with us Secretary (Economic Relations) Shri T S Tirumurti, Secretary to Vice President, Dr. I V Subba Rao, Jt. Secretary (East & Southern Africa) Dr. Neena Malhotra and Ambassador of India to Zimbabwe Shri R Masakui. After Secretary (ER)’s remarks we will have time for some questions. We request you to please speak in to the microphone and state your name and the name of your organization before you ask your question.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Thank you very much. The Hon’ble Vice President is visiting Zimbabwe from November 2 to November 4. This is the second leg of his three nation tour of Africa which includes Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The Hon’ble Vice President is accompanied by Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar, Hon’ble Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, two Members of Parliament namely Shri K Suresh and Shri Muraleedharan and other senior officials.

Yesterday, on arrival from Botswana Hon’ble Vice President was received by His Excellency, Vice President of Zimbabwe Kembo Mohadi as well as the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs. This morning Hon’ble Vice President called on His Excellency President of Zimbabwe Emmerson D Mnangagwa and the meeting was extremely warm and friendly and lasted for more than an hour. The two leaders discussed a range of issues.

President of Zimbabwe expressed his confidence that this visit of Vice President of India will take our relations to the next level. Hon’ble Vice President congratulated President Mnangagwa on his recent election as President in July this year. He appreciated the smooth and peaceful conduct of harmonious elections in Zimbabwe where an Indian observer team of eight members had also participated and reported positively on the conduct of the elections in a free and fair manner.

His Excellency President of Zimbabwe thanked India for being supportive of Zimbabwe during its period of isolation and was deeply appreciative of India’s stand that it refused to join others in imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe. He thanked Hon’ble Vice President for this visit soon after the elections in Zimbabwe. His Excellency President Mnangagwa praised India’s development and expressed desire to enhance cooperation in a range of areas. He called for greater Indian assistance and expertise to take Zimbabwe’s economic development forward.

Subsequently, Hon’ble Vice President met His Excellency Vice President of Zimbabwe Kembo Mohadi for a tete-a-tete which was followed by delegation level talks. During the delegation talks a range of areas were discussed including defence cooperation, trade & investment, developmental cooperation, capacity building, international cooperation, sports, culture and people to people links.

Enhanced defence cooperation was identified as one of the areas where India is currently extending eight slots to Zimbabwe defence forces in our premier defence training institute. Both sides condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Hon’ble Vice President indicated the growing development cooperation between the two countries and announced the following.

India will extend a line of credit $310 million for extension of the life of the Huangwe Thermal Power Plant.

We will extend additional funds for two other lines of credit projects namely $23 million for Bulawayo Thermal power plant and $19.5 Deka pumping and water intake system.

These lines of credit are in addition to our lines of credit of $87 million and $28 million respectively which we have given earlier for these projects.

India is happy to establish the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Center under our grant assistance. The vocational training center set up by India is already operational.

We will also be extending additional funds of $2.9 million to upgrade Indo-Zim technology center which India had gifted earlier to Zimbabwe.

We will be happy to accede to Zimbabwe’s request and supply 10 ambulances.

We will also be gifting lifesaving drugs.

Both sides agreed that there was need to enhance trade & investment ties given the vast potential which is available. His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe welcomed Indian investments into Zimbabwe. Several sectors have been identified for potential business engagement. These include agriculture, health and medi-care, traditional medicine, pharmaceuticals, mining, diamond trading etc. In particular enhanced engagement in health, pharmaceuticals etc. was emphasized by both sides.

Hon’ble Vice President conveyed India’s decision to depute five experts in various fields to assist Zimbabwe under the flagship ITEC program.

In 2017-18, 269 persons from Zimbabwe were trained in India under ITEC.

Zimbabwe side appreciated India’s assistance in capacity building. There also exists close relations in the field of education. Subsequently there was signing of MoUs between Harare Institute of Technology and 15 technical universities of India where 300 Zimbabwe students have completed M. Tech and PhD in the last 6 years.

Both sides agreed to work together to champion global issues including reform and expansion of UN Security Council, combating terrorism, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable development.

Hon’ble Vice President thanked Zimbabwe for signing the framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance and urged them to ratify the same at the earliest. Hon’ble Vice President expressed India’s support to Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth. He also thanked them for supporting our own candidature in elections to International Courts. Both sides appreciated the important contribution of the Indian community in Zimbabwe.

His Excellency Vice President of Zimbabwe hosted a banquet lunch in honor of the Hon’ble Vice President. Several MoUs were signed during this visit. They include the following:

Cooperation in the field of geology, mining and mineral resources.

Action plan on information and communication technology

Cooperation in the field of traditional medicine of Homeopathy

Cooperation in the field of arts, culture and heritage

Cooperation and collaboration on broadcasting

Visa waiver agreement for diplomatic and official service passports.

Friends, yesterday soon after his arrival Vice President addressed a large gathering of the Indian community in Zimbabwe who had come from different parts of the country to attend the event. Several prominent members of the Zimbabwe Indian community participated in this event. The address of the Hon’ble Vice President was received with great enthusiasm.

Late in the afternoon today Hon’ble Vice President will be addressing the India Zimbabwe Business Forum where prominent Indian and Zimbabwe business and companies are participating. Many business agreements are expected to be signed during this meeting. I thank you and I will be happy to take questions.

Question: Can you give more details about the cooperation for sports and for mining?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: As regards cooperation for mining in fact as you are probably aware Zimbabwe is extremely rich in minerals resources and apart from diamond they also have other resources like gold etc. so therefore both sides felt that the time was indeed right for taking this relationship forward in this very crucial area. It is extremely important for them and that is why we have been able to sign an MoU on mining.

What we expect to do, for example in the area of diamond trade, we have proposed to them that we will be quite happy to do direct diamond trade because as of now Zimbabwe diamonds come to us but from different channels. So they are also extremely enthused with the idea of doing direct diamond trade with us. So they will probably look at it internally and I am sure we are going to have discussions after which we will be able to take this forward. This has been a very concrete outcome of the discussions and in fact we also had the minister from the Zimbabwe side present during these discussion and he was part of the delegation.

As far as sports is concerned, the Hon’ble Minister of Sports for Zimbabwe was herself present. She is an Olympic medal winner. She has won several medals in the Olympics and she is the Zimbabwe Sports Minister so therefore she has several ideas on where we can collaborate. On training for example and to come and study our models, not just in cricket where of course we have a very healthy ties with many countries but also in other areas and how we are doing it. So these are still at the discussion stage and we need to engage to take them forward.

Question from Rajya Sabha: 22 salon mein ye pahli yatra hai Prime Minister, President ya Vice President level par. Zimbabwe se sambandh hamare pahle bhi theek they lekin ek baat kahi jaa rahi hai ki sambandhon ko re-energize karna hai, uska kya matlab hai?

(This is first high level visit after a gap of 22 years. We always had good relations with Zimbabwe but it is being said that we need to re-energize the relations, what does that means?)

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: See, actually our relations with Zimbabwe is on a very very solid foundation. I have already outlined at the outset and at no point of time have we not supported Zimbabwe in some of their requests. And you will also recall that when Zimbabwe was attaining freedom in 1980, the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was herself present on their independence day celebrations.

We had a series of very high level visits and yes there has been a gap of more than 21 years. The last visit was by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Deve Gouda. At this point of time the visit of the Hon’ble Vice President is being seen by the leadership of Zimbabwe as re-energizing our relations and they have said it not once but several times that they are very happy that immediately after their elections are over the Hon’ble Vice President has taken time to come all the way to their country and re-energize our ties.

And I think that has been our significant event for them and at the importance of it has not been lost and at the same time we have also covered a wide range of things as I mentioned in my statement. They said that India has been strong supporter even when they were isolated in the last two years and it is a very significant statement that President made.

So they are fully willing to engage us, they have a very, visionary type of plan which goes on to 2030 and they are planning to become a middle income country by 2030 an therefore they are looking at India to give them not just development partnership but also share our expertise but also persuade our industry economy and invest here.

If you recall this is one of the ten guiding principles where the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India himself enumerated when he spoke to the parliament that we will support Indian industry to go into Africa. So there is a great deal of synergy between our two countries and I am confident that we will be able to take this relationship forward in a very meaningful manner.

Question Contd.: Defence par bhi hai ki cooperation hoga, khaskar training ke liye jo Botswana mein hua tha. To inki forces army and airfoce ko training di jaayegi, to ye kaise hoga?

(There will also be cooperation in the defence sector, just like with Botswana. So will be training their army or air forces?)

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: With Botswana we have had a very long relations with Botswana. If you recall I mentioned that we have had relations with Botswana since 1978 onwards where we had actually had our Indian army and air force training team and they had been there right till 2012. But as far as Zimbabwe is concerned we have had actually very close links with the Zimbabwean defence forces in fact at some point of time they purchased equipment and spare parts from HAL but they also had economic difficulties in the last couple of decades and therefore these relations could not be nurtured to the extent they could have and now I think they feel the time has come to re-engage in defence as well. That is why last year, in fact, four training slots was given for their defence forces and this we have enhanced it to eight. So therefore they are aware that depending on their requirements because our relationship has always been demanded India has always been forthcoming.

Question: Jis tarah health sector mein humne Botswana mein bhi dekha, yahan bhi dekha ki hum log lagaataar African countries ko sahyog kar rahe hain, kya problem hai aur kis tarah se hum log jyada behtar sahyog kar sakte hain?

(We have seen that we are cooperating in the health sector in Africa, so how can we cooperate better to do that?)

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: It is interesting that both His Excellency, and the President of Zimbabwe as well as the Vice President and their delegation they attached a lot of cooperation to health cooperation. In fact the Hon’ble Minister of Health for Zimbabwe was himself present during the delegation level talks. And this covered not just the question of how we can help them because as I mentioned one of the important thing they wanted immediately was supply of life saving drugs which we readily agreed and we are going to do more on the request of supply of drugs which they require. However they were also looking at whether our pharmaceuticals companies will come and have a presence in Zimbabwe and of course many of them are from the private sector therefore we also discussed how they can attract our pharmaceutical companies to come in.

The Hon’ble Vice President also mentioned about how our doctors play an important role, see there a lot of regulations and rules in the Zimbabwean system which also needs to be looked into in this context and they are already doing it and therefore we pointed out to them that liberalization of some of this will certainly ensure acting as a catalyst for our private sector coming here as well as doctors coming here.

And they are also, as I said, deeply appreciative of Indian traditional medicine and they have their own system of traditional medicine and in fact because we have the synergy of traditional medicine we were able to sign the MoU today in this important area and therefore, I think, when you look at the overall context of pharmaceuticals, health services, traditional medicine I think we have definitely a lot of synergy. Of course we have to take this forward in our system as well and we know they need for the private sector to come as well so therefore they need incentives to come into Zimbabwe.

Question: Aaj ek MoU Prasar Bharti ke liye bhi hua hai, to kyaa aap vistar se uske baare mein batayenge?

(Today an MoU was also signed about Prasar Bharti, can you elaborate about that?)

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I will request my colleague to give you the answer.

Jt. Secretary (East & Southern Africa) Dr. Neena Malhotra:Thank you sir. Actually this is just an enabling MoU for the exchange of information for the broadcasting corporation of both the countries. Plan of activities will now be decided now the MoU has been signed and both sides will have exchange of delegations, exchange of information.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I will also like to add that their minister in charge of information and broadcasting was also present during the meeting and thereby giving a lot of importance to this particular area and when she made her remarks she was mentioning how there was a need to look into training of their journalists and training of their media and this is something which we do under ITEC in any case. So this is an area which we are certainly going to look at apart from that they are also keen on exchange of journalists and media and this is also an area of great interest to us. So as she said this is only an enabling MoU.

Question from All India Radio News: Can you tell us something about this drinking water project?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: This Deka water project is actually a drinking water project. It has been one of our success stories in Africa and in fact in Tanzania we have given $215 million lines of credit or something and this was such a success that they have come back and we are giving another $500 million for this. And now there are other countries coming and asking us on water treatment so that we can give them that type of projects which we have done very successfully in Africa.

Question from PTI: Is the quantum in the line of credit as required or as suggested by Zimbabwe?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Actually one of the important principles which we follow when we give a line of credit is that it should be demanded and it should not only be demanded but it should also fit into the priority of the country which asks and that is why all our lines of credit are those which are requested by the country themselves. And these are lines of credit which they have invested and for example a very big line of credit which we are giving them is on the thermal power plant with an amount of $310 million.

It is interesting that this thermal plant already existed for the last 25 years, it is a 920 MW thermal power plant but over the years it has become practically 450 or 500 MW. Now they feel that they can upgrade it by another 300 MW more and upgrade it can continue for the next 20 years and we would be right people to engage with.

Just for your information there is another thermal power plant where we have given $87 million and we are giving another $23 million so that they can maintain. So definitely there is a request from the Zimbabwe side and we have practically accommodated all their requests and let me also tell you that even from the bank credit there is credit going to Zimbabwe from the Exim Bank which is called as Buyer’s Credit. From Buyer’s credit as well there is a lot of money that is going to Zimbabwe. Therefore it fits in extremely will within our criteria.

Question from Indian Express: You said liberalization will play a catalytic role for pharma sector. So what are the economic firewalls which are currently in place for the pharma sector to come into here?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I wouldn’t say it is prohibitive that is why I said liberalization. I am not at all saying it is prohibitive. There are already Indian companies here and the pharmaceuticals coming in, so the trade is only increasing. So I would not say that it is prohibitive. Liberalization will only help it take it farther. For example in case of doctors, I know that each country has its own rules and regulations but I am saying that our private sector; see I am saying all this in the context of our Indian private sector because you need incentives to attract them. It is not just a G2G and that is where I think liberalization helps.

Question Contd.: So are there any limits that you want them to do away with?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: At this point of time let’s have a discussion with them and see.

Under Secretary (DD): I don’t see any other questions. I consider this press briefing now concluded. Thank you all for joining.

(Concludes)

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