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India-Swaziland Joint Statement during State Visit of President to Swaziland (April 9-10, 2018)

April 11, 2018

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, was on a State Visit to the Kingdom of Swaziland on 09-10 April 2018, on the invitation of His Majesty King Mswati-III. This was the first visit ever to the Kingdom of Swaziland by an Indian President. Shri Kovind was accompanied by First Lady, Mrs. Savita Kovind, Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways & Shipping, Chemicals & Fertilizers, Shri Mansukh Mandavia, Member of Parliament, Dr. Ponnusamy Venugopal, Member of Parliament, Dr. Yashwant Singh and other senior officials.

His Majesty King Mswati-III hosted President Kovind for official talks at Mandvulo Royal Palace, after a ceremonial Guard of Honour. The two leaders were accompanied by their delegations during the discussions, and also had a brief one-on-one interaction. This was followed by a State Banquet in honour of the Indian President.

President Kovind expressed his warm felicitations to His Majesty the King for his forthcoming 50th birthday, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Kingdom of Swaziland. The King conveyed that he was greatly honoured that President Kovind was visiting so close to the historic 50/50 double celebrations.

Two bilateral Agreements were formalised in the presence of President Kovind and His Majesty. A Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Health Sector and an Agreement for exemption of visas for holders of diplomatic/service passports.

In a special ceremony, The King conferred the highest honour of Swaziland, the Order of the Lion, on President Kovind, in recognition of the fact that he was the first Indian Head of State to visit the Kingdom, and for acknowledging the contributions made by India for advancing Eswatini’s (Swaziland's) development agenda, including through the new initiatives announced during the present visit. His Majesty expressed confidence that President Kovind’s visit would set India-Swaziland relations on a new trajectory. President Kovind expressed his deep for this exceptional gesture.

On the morning of 10 April 2018, President Kovind addressed a Joint Sitting of the Swaziland Parliament. He commended the Swazi Members of Parliament on their efforts for advancing His Majesty’s of transforming Swaziland into a developed country by 2022. Through the Swazi Parliament, he promised the Swazi people that India would provide all support and assistance to Kingdom for converting this noble vision into reality. President Kovind announced that India would support construction of the new Parliament building of Swaziland through technical and financial assistance. This announcement was warmly received by the Members of Parliament.

Mrs. Savita Kovind made a donation of 500 blankets to the Philani Maswati Foundation and the Khulisa Umntfwana Project, two charitable initiatives patronised by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, for helping orphaned children and destitute elderly people in the Kingdom. The King received this donation on behalf of Her Majesty and thanked Mrs. Kovind for the gesture.

President Kovind inaugurated the Information Technology Centre located in the Royal Science & Technology Park (RSTP). The IT Centre has been built through a concessional credit-line of 20 million US dollars from the Government of India to the Government of Swaziland. The Centre hosts the National Data Centre of the Kingdom of Swaziland and provides high-quality training and education in Information Technology. President Kovind expressed his satisfaction at the successful completion of the Indian project in the RSTP, and announced that India would provide Swaziland a new credit-line of USD 10.4 million to help establish a ‘Disaster Recovery Site’ for the National Data Centre housed within the RSTP.

President Kovind’s interactions with Swaziland’s dignitaries clearly brought out the potential to deepen and expand the India-Swazi bilateral relationship in many areas. Both countries agreed to work together to realise this potential as soon as possible. Towards this end, President Kovind conveyed the recent decision by the Government of India to soon open a resident Indian diplomatic Mission in Swaziland. This information was warmly received by His Majesty the King, who responded that Swaziland would reciprocate by opening a diplomatic mission in New Delhi in the near future.

Recognising the importance of cooperation in the area of healthcare, His Majesty King Mswati-III pointed out that India was the primary source of affordable medicines, including antiretroviral drugs, which were helping in the fight against HIV. His Majesty expressed gratitude for the Indian donation of medicines and medical equipment worth USD 3 million to the Ministry of Health.

Given the importance of farming for both the Indian and Swazi populations, both leaders emphasised the potential of increasing collaboration in the agricultural sector. The King expressed warm appreciation for the ongoing Indian-assistance project for improving the productivity of maize, financed through an Indian concessional loan of 37.9 million US dollars. His Majesty noted that the output per hectare had gone up by multiple times in the target areas of the project. President Kovind expressed satisfaction at the success of the previous Indian agricultural project, and announced that the Government of India would assist the Swazi Ministry of Agriculture in establishing a ‘Centre for Agricultural Excellence’ to serve as a one-stop-shop for dissemination of agricultural technologies to farmers. President Kovind also announced Indian grant assistance of US$ 400,000 for construction of irrigation infrastructure in Lubuyane in the Hhohho region, which would help assure irrigation for subsistence farmers.

The King warmly thanked President Kovind for the generous scholarships provided by the Government of India for short-term training as well as degree courses in India. President Kovind announced that India would double, from this year, the scholarships for Swaziland under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. He further conveyed the Government of India’s readiness to offer customised training programmes for specific departments of the Swazi Government, and announced one such programme for training in Public Finance Management for the technical staff of the Swazi Treasury. His Majesty thanked President Kovind for India’s willingness to support education and capacity-building in the Kingdom, pointing out that this was the most critical ingredient for long-term development of the country.

President Kovind expressed his regret for the two successive years of drought experienced by Swaziland due to the El-Nino climatic phenomenon. Both leaders agreed that expansion of renewable energy could help in containing the effects of climate change. In this context, President Kovind conveyed the Government of India’s decision for setting up 20 solar charging stations in various low electricity access areas of Swaziland. The project would be financed from the Government of India grant-in-aid programs. The Indian President also announced a donation of 1 million US dollars for the National Disaster Management Agency, and an additional in-kind donation of 700 tons of rice and 300 tons of beans for the NDMA, to be used as food-aid for the Swazi population affected by drought and other natural disasters. His Majesty thanked President Kovind for this humanitarian assistance, which would significantly augment the operational capacity of the NDMA.

His Majesty briefed President Kovind about the Kingdom’s plan to develop an export-oriented Special Economic Zone, which would offer Indian companies a favourable regulatory environment for their investments. President Kovind welcomed this initiative and acknowledged that the Kingdom could offer potential advantages for Indian investors who wish to serve the regional market in Southern and Eastern Africa. He suggested that Swaziland should undertake a dedicated road-show in India to better publicise its investment opportunities among Indian businesses, including the facilities offered by the planned new SEZ.

Both leaders agreed that terrorism poses the most serious threat to modern societies, and that there could be no possible justification for acts of terrorism anywhere in the world. They stressed the need for greater international collaboration against terrorism, and His Majesty King supported the Indian proposal for an early adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). Both sides shared special concern at the phenomenon of state-sponsored and cross-border terrorism, and agreed that all countries have a responsibility to take resolute and credible steps to eliminate terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries within their territories.

Swaziland and India agreed to work closely together in the United Nations and other multilateral fora to address global challenges and to foster international peace and sustainable development. President Kovind thanked The King for supporting India’s candidature for a permanent seat in an expanded United Nations Security Council. Both leaders agreed on the need for an urgent reform of the institutions of global governance, including the UNSC, to reflect the realities of today and to allow adequate representation to all parts of the world including Africa.

The President paid condolences to His Majesty for the loss of one of his Emakhosikati (Queens). He conveyed his deep sadness by the news of the loss. He prayed that God will grant him the strength and courage and continue to bless and comfort him and his family during this time of grief.

His Majesty King Mswati-III of the Kingdom of Swaziland and His Excellency President Ram Nath Kovind of the Republic of India agreed that the present visit marks the beginning of a new era of cooperation between the two countries, and committed to maintain regular consultations and interactions at all levels and in all sectors. President Kovind thanked His Majesty King Mswati-III for the warm and gracious hospitality extended to him and his delegation by the Government and people of the Kingdom of Swaziland.

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