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Transcript of Media Briefing on the upcoming visit of President to Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and Zambia

April 06, 2018

OSD (PR), Shri Abu Mathen George: Good Afternoon. Joint Secretary East and South Africa, Ms. Neena Malhotra and the Press Secretary to the President Shri Ashok Malik. To begin with the Jt. Secretary will give you a read out on the visit to Equatorial Guinea followed by a briefing on the visit to Swaziland and Zambia. I will then request the Press Secretary to give his own remarks after which the floor will be open for questions.

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra: Good afternoon everyone and thanks once again for joining us this afternoon. As OSD (PR) said President Ramnath Kovind will be on a State visit to Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and Zambia from the April 07 – 13, 2018. This is the third visit abroad by the President after resuming office and also the third visit to Africa.

The visit once again underscores the importance that is attached to Africa by our government. The visit is the first ever visit of the Head of State or Head of Government of India to Equatorial Guinea and Swaziland and the Presidential visit to Zambia is taking place after a gap of 29 years.

The President will be accompanied by the First Lady, Minister of State for Road Transport Highways, and Shipping, Chemicals and Fertilizers, Shri Mansukh Mandaviya and four Members of Parliament. I shall begin with Equatorial Guinea.

The visit to Equatorial Guinea will be from April 7 - 9, 2018. This will be the first ever visit of a Head of State from India to Equatorial Guinea as I mentioned earlier. The president of Equatorial Guinea President Obiang Mbasogo had visited India for IAFS -III summit in Delhi in October 2015. Recently in March 2018 he visited Delhi once again for the ISA Summit. In recent months there has been several ministerial interactions. The foreign minister from Equatorial Guinea lead delegation to India to participate in the first India Equatorial Guinea Joint Commission meeting held in New Delhi in October 2017. Before that Minister of State for External Affairs Shri MJ Akbar had visited the country.

As regards the program, Rashtrapati ji will arrive at Malabo by the evening of 7th of April 2018. On April 8, he will address the parliament of the Equatorial Guinea. Thereafter he is scheduled to hold talks with President Obiang Mswati which will be followed by delegation level talks. Both the presidents are expected to review the entire gamut of relations. A banquet lunch will be hosted by the President Obiang Mswati and Rashtrapati ji will later address the gathering at the reception for Indian community in the evening.

A few lines about the country. Equatorial Guinea has joined the United Nations Security Council in January 2018 i.e. this year, as a non-permanent member for a 2 year tenure. Rashtrapati Ji will reiterate India's offer to work together with Equatorial Guinea during its UNSC tenure. He will also seek support for early adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) proposed by India at the United Nations. Equatorial Guinea, as you probably would know, has already extended support to the Indian candidature for the permanent membership of the UNSC.

India’s relationship with the country is characterized with the strong partnership in the Oil and Gas sector. Equatorial Guinea is the fourth largest supplier of natural gas to India and is now keen to diversify its economy beyond oil and gas sector. During the visit Government of India’s decision to open a Resident Indian Mission in Malabo will also be announced. We are likely to sign at least three agreements and President will also make some announcements.

Rashtrapati Ji will depart for Swaziland on April 9, 2018. Now we move to Swaziland. The visit is again is the first ever HoS, HoG level visit from India. The king of Swaziland had visited India for the first time in 2015 for the India Africa Forum Summit – III and then in March 2017 last year as the Chief Guest for CII-Exim Bank Conclave. During the visit he was hosted by our Rashtrapati Ji.

The enhanced political engagement with this country is reflective of the desire of both the countries to deepen and widen political engagement. As regards the program during the visit, President will be received by the King of Swaziland and accorded a ceremonial reception on his arrival in Swaziland on 9th of April. He would have delegation level talks with the Swazi side and also a restricted level meeting with the President. President Kovind and King Mswati III will jointly inaugurate the Information Technology Center located in the Royal Science and Technology Park. The center has been set up with the assistance of Indian government. The other element of the visit include an address by the President at the Swazi Parliament. President is going to be the first Head of State to address Swazi Parliament and he will also call on the Queen Mother.

His Excellency, the King of Swaziland will also host an official banquet for the President. Regarding our engagement with Swaziland, we have assisted Swaziland through two LoC projects an IT center which is part of the Royal Science & Technology Park which is proposed to be inaugurated jointly for an LoC of $20 million and another project for improving maize productivity in that country for about $37 million. Both projects have been completed successfully and are deeply appreciated by the Swazi side.

Some more proposals have been received from the Swazi side requesting fresh assistance which are under examination. The Kingdom has also drafted a law for creating an export oriented Special Economic Zone centered around the RSTP which is the Royal Science and Technology Park, which is already financed by us and they are keen to make the legal framework attractive to Indian companies.

Swaziland is among the last surviving absolute monarchies in the world and has been ruled by the same family for over 400 years. The country has good public infrastructure, good connectivity to important markets like South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana and enjoys membership of preferential trade groups and programs such as SADC which is Southern Africa Development Community, COMISA which is Common market for Eastern Southern Africa, SACU which is Southern African Customs Union, AGOA which is African growth and opportunity act and the European EPA which is Economic Partnership Agreement.

Political environment is quite predictable with the King as the sole arbiter of policy and the country is strategically located next to South Africa and has good rail and road connectivity to all the neighboring countries. Even though it is technically land locked it is just 2-3 hrs drive from both Durban and Maputo ports.

Since it’s a member of AGOA and EPA with EU therefore the goods and services produced or processed in Swaziland enjoy duty and quota free access in a potentially massive market. So the country therefore has a tremendous potential to emerge as a safe commercial hub for Indian companies.

Moving on to Zambia, India – Zambia relations predate Zambia’s independence. India’s peaceful and non-violent freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi inspired many leaders in Africa including the first President of Zambia Dr. Kenneth Kaunda who also played a lead role in liberation of neighboring countries in 1970s and 1980s. Both the African National Congress of South Africa and SWAPO of Namibia had their headquarters in Lusaka for many years.

Zambia extended support to almost all the liberation movement in the region i.e. Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and South Africa. Zambia was the first country that Nelson Mandela visited after his release from jail. Zambia is a land linked country and has eight neighbors, it is surrounded by eight countries and there are no cross-border tensions or conflicts. The country is among the very few countries in Africa that has had democratic peaceful transitions of power and no cross-border tensions.

The first President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda was also sometimes referred to as Gandhi of Africa. HE had visited India more than 10 times beginning in 1957 as a freedom fighter and thereafter visited several times including on bilateral state visits as well as for multilateral events. From India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited thrice, 1970, 1976 and 1980. President V V Giri and N Sanjeeva Reddy in 1974 and 1981. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Venkataraman visited in 1989. The current visit would be the first one after a gap of 29 years.

As regards the program, the President will arrive in Lusaka on April 10. Apart from the ceremonial aspects, President will have meetings with President Lungu and delegations level talks with the Zambian side. His program includes a meeting with Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, the first president, who was also awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru award for international understanding in 70s and then there would be a state banquet, an interaction with the Indian community and the President would also address a business event jointly with President Lungu.

Our bilateral relations are cordial and warm. India is described by Zambian leaders as all weather and time tested friend. Zambia has consistently extended supported India on issues of interest to us as well as India’s candidature at the multilateral forum. Our bilateral trade has grown steadily. In 2016-17 our bilateral trade touched nearly $1 billion. India primarily imports copper from Zambia. Zambia is the second largest producer of copper in the world and produces nearly 5% of the entire world copper production.

India is also one of the largest investor in Zambia. We have investments of nearly $5 billion, mostly in the mining sector. Important bilateral investments also include India Zambia Bank which comprises of three public sector banks from India which are Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Central Bank of India and Government of Zambia. In addition Konkola copper mines by Vedanta, Bharti Airtel, which is the largest player in Zambia’s telecom sector and Nav Bharat Ventures Ltd. investing heavily in mining as well as thermal power plants. Tatas have invested in the real estate and have five star hotel named Taj Pamodzi.

Zambia is also covered by DFTP of India enjoys all the benefits. India has provided considerable economic assistance to Zambia in the form of grants and credits. Zambia has been provided three lines of credit by India in the recent past for Tezhi Power Project for $30 million, establishment of health post, nearly 650 out of which 247 have been completed and recently an LoC has been approved for $40 million for agriculture mechanizations.

Zambia also avails a large number of our ITEC program and ICCR scholarships. As regards defence cooperation, one of our closest linkages with armed forces of African Continent is with Zambia. The linkages date back to the pre-independence period when we sent a battalion of Sikh Regiment in former Northern Rhodesia which was the precursor of Zambia. The linkage is strengthened after Zambia attained independence in 1964. There were years when nearly 40% of Zambian armed forces underwent training in various Indian defence institutions including several of Zambia’s defence chiefs.

At one time almost the entire Zambian air force was trained by the Indian air force in every field. India also assisted with the setting up of Zambia Defence Forces Command and Staff College by sending an advisory team.

Zambia has a large and vibrant Indian community. There are about 25000 persons of Indian origin and majority of them are from Gujarat state. In the past Indians have occupied government positions namely Deepak Patel and Suresh Desai who held cabinet level positions. Indian community is generally very well established and contributing immensely to Zambian economy.

Here again during the visit some agreements are likely to be signed and some announcements will also be made. We shall be briefing you during the visit regarding that. I will stop here now. Thank you.

Press Secretary to the President, Shri Ashok Malik:Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. As you know this is the third state visit of President Kovind since he took over as the President of India in July last year. It is not by coincidence that all the three visits have been to Africa. This reflects the importance in Indian foreign policy given to Africa by this government and the country generally. It also reflects President Kovind’s personal commitment to that relationship with the countries of Africa.

In his two previous visits to Ethiopia and Djibouti and then to Madagascar and Mauritius President Kovind touched the Indian Ocean. This is for the first time that he will be touching the Atlantic Shores of Africa and in fact his visit to Equatorial Guinea will constitute the furthest West he has gone as President of India.

When President Kovind took office he was keen to visit countries where no Indian President or Head of Government had travelled previously. He has made an effort to do this repeatedly. Djibouti, which was the first country he visited was the first Indian Presidential visit as did Madagascar. On this trip he is continuing that tradition with Equatorial Guinea and Swaziland as my colleague said.

He considers it a privilege to be visiting these countries and to, in a sense, playing a pioneering role with these visits. President Kovind is going to be the fourth Indian President to visit Zambia and as Neena said the first in almost 30 years. He particularly looks forward to renewing one of India’s strongest relationships in Africa with Zambia in addition to of course building on existing relations with Swaziland and Equatorial Guinea. He also looks forward to meeting President Kenneth Kaunda who is one of the statesman of our times and a very respected figure. That is all I have to say and am happy to take questions.

Question: With Zambia are you going to sign a new defence cooperation agreement?

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra: There is no defence cooperation agreement in pipeline as of now.

Question Contd.:
Are you going to expand defence relations?

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra: As I said we already have very good relations with Zambia and we had contributed a great deal in the development of their defence forces. Our policy pertaining to Africa is Africa led and Africa driven and keeping in mind the priorities of African countries. If Zambia so desires we shall definitely assist then in defence forces development.

Question: I am sorry I have got confused about the agreements, so basically we have two agreements with Equatorial Guinea, and what about subsequent countries i.e. Swaziland and Zambia in terms of number of agreements.

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra: Normally till the agreement is signed we take it as the agreement under process so there is a likelihood of at least three agreements in case of Equatorial Guinea and we may also sign two to three agreements in the subsequent two countries as well which is Zambia as well as Swaziland which we shall be announcing during the visit.

Question: You talked about the presence of Indians in these countries, is there possibility of any engagement with the Indian diaspora there with the president?

Press Secretary to the President, Shri Ashok Malik: In all the three countries the President will be engaging with Indian diaspora groups. In Swaziland the diaspora is relatively small but he will be engaging with diaspora groups in all the three countries.

Question: Small clarification actually, when will he be reaching Zambia? He will be landing on 9th in Swaziland and when will he be reaching Zambia?

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra:On the afternoon of April 10.

Question Contd.: When will he be returning back to India?

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra:On the evening of April 12 he will depart from Zambia and he will reach Delhi on April 13.

Question:
Do you have bilateral trade figures with Equatorial Guinea and Swaziland also?

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra:I have figures about Zambia and trade is heavily in favor of Zambia because we import a lot of copper from there. In case of Swaziland the trade is not very high as it is a small country, in fact it is the second smallest country after Lesotho in Africa. We buy a little bit of gold from Swaziland. The figure I have is $22.02 million is there exports to India and there import is about $39.56 million, which is not very high nearly 59 or so yes.

With Zambia we have sizeable trade in fact we have nearly $1 billion and as I said we also have sizeable investment with the country i.e. about $5 billion. Nearly $2.85 billion in Konkola copper mine itself, which is by Vedanta. Then there is India Zambia Bank which I mentioned in which our banks own nearly 60% of the equity which is three banks, Central Bank of India, Bank of India and Bank of Baroda. Then we have Tatas having investment in that country and Nava Shiva ventures which have also invested both in copper mines and in thermal power projects and a huge number of middle level Indian companies. So we have sizeable investments in Zambia.

Press Secretary to the President, Shri Ashok Malik: In case of Equatorial Guinea, while I don’t have the numbers with me.

Question: With EG we import roughly around $800 million worth of oil gas and our export is only $11-12 million.

Jt. Secretary (East & South Africa), Ms. Neena Malhotra:Equatorial Guinea is the fourth largest supplier of natural gas to India. West Africa is actually in general is a very good source of oil and gas for India. We source nearly 20% of our crude oil requirements from Angola and Nigeria and also a little bit from South Sudan and gas mostly from Equatorial Guinea.

Press Secretary to the President, Shri Ashok Malik:In the case of Equatorial Guinea we are looking to help and support Equatorial Guinea’s efforts to diversify its economic base from just oil and gas. We are looking at agriculture, we are looking at helping them survey for minerals on their mainland in addition to energy resources.

OSD (PR), Shri Abu Mathen George: As there are no other questions, this briefing is concluded. Thank you Ma’am, thank you Sir and thank you all for joining us.

(Concludes)

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