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Transcript of On-board Media Briefing by Vice President on 3-Nation visit to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi (November 6, 2018)

November 08, 2018

Under Secretary(DD): Welcome to the Media Briefing on three-Nation visit of Hon’ble Vice President of India to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We have the privilege of Hon’ble Vice President of India here to brief us. After Vice President’s remarks we may have some time for a few questions. Thank you very much. Over to you sir.

Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu: My dear friends I have had an extremely productive visit to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

You are aware of the high priority government gives to our relations with Africa. In fact, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had recently set out 10 guiding principles to enhance our engagement with Africa. My visit to these three countries comes in this context. After this visit of mine to these three countries, you will be happy to know that in the last 4½ years of this government, 29 visits to Africa have taken place at the level President, Vice President and Prime Minister. This is truly unprecedented.

My visit was very significant in that this was the first high level visit after a significant gap to these three countries. In fact, in Zimbabwe, it was after 21 years and President of Zimbabwe was appreciative that I visited Zimbabwe soon after his election as President.

The leadership of these countries received me with great warmth. The President of Botswana flew back from his visit to Mozambique to meet me at the airport on his arrival. President of Zimbabwe spent more than an hour with me to discuss various issues of mutual interest. President of Malawi was himself my host and even hosted a luncheon banquet in my honour where the First Lady was also present. These were special gestures shown to me.

Further, India and these three African countries share similar values, common bonds of democracy and shared history of colonialism. In fact, eight of our election observers were recently in Zimbabwe during their harmonious elections and expressed their satisfaction at the outcome of these elections.

My visit was to build on these strong foundations and take our relations to next level by reinforcing existing ties and forging relationship in new areas. The outcome of my visit clearly indicates that this has been achieved.

These are countries which India has strongly supported in their socio-economic development. This was unequivocally acknowledged by all the three Presidents. In fact, in Zimbabwe the President openly thanked India for standing by them during their period of isolation. All leaders thanked India for our sustained development assistance, extended through Lines of Credit and grants for various projects. You are aware that at the India-Africa Summit III, India has agreed to extend Lines of Credit to Africa of US$ 10 Billion over 5 years in addition to US$ 600 million as grant.

During my visit, I made substantial commitment to them on development partnership and assistance. Major commitments made includes, inter-alia, US$ 350 million for projects in Zimbabwe and US $ 220 million of Lines of Credit for water supply projects in Malawi as well as setting up of Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Zimbabwe and Malawi as grant assistance. My announcement was gratefully acknowledged by their leadership.

Capacity building was of special interest to all three countries and they were uniformly appreciative of our ITEC program and the generous slots we give for training of their nationals in a variety of fields. With Botswana, I offered to increase the slots from the current 140 per year. We also agreed to depute experts for training of their junior diplomats. We are also deputing 5 experts in various fields to assist Zimbabwe under ITEC.

President of Malawi specifically asked our assistance for skills development which I readily agreed to. I invited all of them to participate actively in the tele-education and tele-medicine project India has launched recently across Africa. India will also be gifting 1,00,000 NCERT school textbooks for classes VIII to XII in Malawi.

Trade and investment was another area where these three countries saw considerable potential for enhancing engagement with India. We discussed several areas for encouraging engagement, especially in the areas of agriculture, health, pharmaceuticals, ICT, minerals and mining, diamond trading, railways and infrastructure, logistics etc. All the three leaders were appreciative of the role Indian private sector was playing in investing in their respective countries and contributing to their development.

Minerals, especially rare earth minerals and their trading came in for specific discussion since all these three countries are rich in minerals including uranium, copper, nickel etc. We signed an MoU with Malawi on providing capacity building in nuclear energy regulatory framework, and its protection, safety etc. keeping in mind the rich deposits of uranium and rare earth minerals in Malawi. We also signed an MoU on geology, mining and minerals with Zimbabwe. Direct trading in raw diamonds was also discussed with Botswana and Zimbabwe.

In the area of health, all three countries were deeply appreciative of medical services in India as well as the services being rendered by our private sector. Just yesterday one of the popular drama actors is being flown to India today for Kidney transplant. They were all appreciative of the medical care that is being provided in Delhi which is comparatively cheaper. Earlier they all used to go to South Africa, now India is becoming slowly the destination. Yesterday this news was prominently covered in the local media.

I also mentioned to them about Indian traditional medicine particularly Ayurveda and Yoga. All these countries have shown tremendous interest in promoting Ayurveda and Yoga because they have their own traditional medicine as well. We signed an MoU on Traditional Medicine with Zimbabwe.

In all the three countries, I had the opportunity to interact with the local and Indian businessman and Indian companies operating there. In fact in Botswana, they gave me the privilege and honor to inaugurate their prestigious annual Global Expo Botswana, where for the first time 28 Indian companies participated. I also visited the Diamond Trading Center Botswana. I also unveiled the plaque to inaugurate the Business Incubation Centre in Malawi built with Government of India’s assistance.

Agriculture is one area of focus which I myself had stressed and they also evinced a keen interest because they are agriculture based economies. We have expertise in agriculture, because agriculture is our basic culture. They were willing to even engage with Indian agriculturists. They ask Indian agriculturists to form partnerships with local people and communities. Also, some of the discussions came up like taking the land on lease and developing the barren land including drip irrigation, horticulture. These are some of the areas for which we are setting up the India-Africa Institute for Agriculture and Rural Development in Malawi which will cater to the whole of Africa on training and capacity building. Because value addition will be of immense help in agriculture sector for these countries. I promised to explore the possibility of greater involvement from our side particularly for value addition and food processing. We also agreed to import mangoes from Malawi as a special gesture.

Defence sector is another area where there is greater scope for cooperation with these three countries. We have been able to successfully conclude the negotiations during my visit for sending Indian Army Training team to Botswana, with whom we had close defence relations since 1978 onwards.

We are also extending training slots in defence to Zimbabwe and Malawi. All the three leaders agreed with me that security cooperation, particularly in counter-terrorism needs to be strengthened. I myself took the initiative of focusing the attention on fighting terror, speaking with one voice, we all agreed that we have to take this agenda forward and impress United Nations for a combined action to target the source of funding the terror and isolate them. The other important Agreements included Extradition treaty with Malawi and an agreement in Broadcasting by Prasar Bharati, another one in Arts, Culture, Heritage and an Action Plan on ICT with Zimbabwe.

One thing that make them more comfort is the cultural relations we have, they are more common between the countries.

I met the Indian community in all the three countries. I am happy to say that the Indian diaspora and NRIs in these countries are playing an important role in their economic development and are highly regarded by their leadership for their industry and hardwork. In my interactions, some of our Indian who settled here, they have become senators, parliamentarians and one of them is a Deputy Minister of Zimbabwe Government.

I invited them to India to participate in the forthcoming Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas in January, 2019. I told them that they can both attend Pravasi Diwas as well as the Kumbh Snan which is very important to many people.

All these three countries have been strongly supporting Indian candidates in various UN and international fora and they have further made commitment that they will stand by India in the international fora on other occasions also. I took this opportunity to thank them for their support.

All three leaders expressed their desire to work with India on Solar energy and deeply appreciated India’s initiative on the International Solar Alliance. While Malawi has already signed and ratified the framework agreement on International Solar Alliance, Zimbabwe has signed ISA and, during my visit. Botswana, they conveyed to me of their decision to sign it shortly. These are indeed welcome developments.

I was also very happy to inaugurate a unique event "India for Humanity”. This event is to commemorate the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi by a yearlong service of camps of the well-known Jaipur Foot in all parts of the world particularly in all parts of Africa. The Government is partnering with Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti in this "India for Humanity” initiative. I launched the very first Jaipur Foot Camp in this series yesterday in Malawi. Malawi was chosen since it was in Africa that Mahatma spent more than two decades and eventually led a non-violent movement that liberated India from colonialism and inspired African leaders to free their countries as well.

Day before yesterday in Zimbabwe we were shown the National Memorial for Heroes who participated in the struggle, sacrificed their lives and made contribution. I was particularly happy to note one of the Indian, Kantibhai Govardhanbhai Patel who migrated here in 1961, settled here, made a humble beginning as a small trader but expanded its activity. Later on seeing the colonial oppression he joined the movement and then he became an active participant. The Foreign Minister told me that he not only gave shelter to other during the struggle but also gave them information and also financial assistance as and when required. They have erected a memorial for him with his photo and I was there to visit the dome and offer tributes.

Overall I am very happy at the substantial and substantive outcome of my visit to these three countries and at what India has been aiming to achieve in Africa. I am particularly happy with the response of Indian diaspora. They are all very very happy about the growth story of India and the leadership also surprised me, they are all aware of happenings and the reforms initiated by our Prime Minister in India. They were all very happy and appreciative about the growth rate.

President of Zimbabwe, Botswana, they have mentioned that you are sending a man to the moon and your economy is also reaching there. So that means they are all keenly watching what is happening in India.

Question: What is your perception about how these countries perceive or view some of our neighbors?

Hon’ble Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu: They are also aware of what is happening. They are one with us on the need to put down terror and the need to stop funding of terror. On this there is common understanding, they are all update of what is happening. I have explained to them that India wants to have friendly relations with all our neighbors and I have also briefed them about the gesture of our Prime Minister visiting Pakistani counterpart even for a function at his home and efforts that have been made and then the subsequent actions of these people.

They are also aware of what is happening and they are, as I told, appreciative to come together to put an end to terror and to speak in one voice and they are also in agreement with us on two things. One, that United Nations must come out strongly and some of these countries are, I am happy to note that Botswana, they are also taking steps to curb black money, stringent laws to curb black money and also to confiscate properties. I was hearing some of the steps during our delegation level talks, I was just thinking what was happening in India. Secondly, they also agree with us the need to democratize United Nations in a more effective manner.

Under Secretary(DD): Thank you sir. With this we conclude this special press briefing.

(Concludes)

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