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Transcript of Special Briefing by Secretary (ER) On Vice President’s Visit to Senegal (June 03, 2022)

June 04, 2022

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Welcome to the Special Briefing on the visit of the Honourable Vice President of India to Senegal. We have with us today, Secretary (ER), Shri Dammu Ravi Sir, who will give you a sense of conversations that have happened in this leg of the three country visit of the Vice President. We also have the privilege of having here the Ambassador of India to Senegal, G. V. Srinivas Sir, and Joint Secretary Sevala Naik Sir, who looks after Central and West Africa in Headquarters. Sir, I'll give the floor to you for some opening remarks, then we can take questions from the media.

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): Thank you very much and good afternoon to all of you. Most of the elements of the program you all are familiar, the Honourable Vice President arrived here day before yesterday evening and thereafter, he had a tete-a-tete with the President and then a delegation level talks, then President of Senegal hosted a banquet in honour of the Vice President. The visit assumes significance in many sense, one of which, both the countries are celebrating the 60 years of establishment of diplomatic relations. This is also the 75th year of our independence - Amrit Mahotsav celebrations are on. And another important point from the point of view of Senegal is that, it is celebrating the chair of the African Union. In many sense, it's a very important visit from the way India looks at it. It is the first ever high level visit from India to Senegal in all these years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. So, it assumes special importance in that sense. It fits in to the overall context of the direction of Honourable Prime Minister of India, who has given a vision that Africa should become a priority in a foreign policy. So, this is in the context of that visionary approach these visits are taking place. And the West Africa which is a francophone country, both in Gabon visit and the Senegal visit, it assumes the added importance that we are developing and deepening relationship in this part of the world. The delegation level talks were extremely cordial, warm and frank.

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Sorry, we can only talk in English. Could you translate?

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): Do you have an interpreter?

[Inaudible]

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Sir, otherwise, we can offer the transcript in French later. We can keep going with the briefing.

Shri G. V. Srinivas, Ambassador of India to Senegal: I think Navya you have a great suggestion; I must really agree with that. The transcript will be available in English and they can comprehend the maximum through the translation which we will provide also. What I propose to you now, you can certainly ask questions in French which my colleague will be translating. Please bear with the English answers, and we will provide you the transcript and through that, you will also get the best of the translations. Please bear with us. Thank you.

Ms.Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Secretary Sir, please continue.

[In French]

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): Please bear with us for saying this in English, but we hope you will get a transcript of it. The delegation level talks were extremely warm, friendly, cordial and I think there is a mutual interest to deepen the relationship. Several issues came up in the delegation talks. And most importantly, President Macky Sall was very warm, and he went beyond the protocol norms in the way he handled the Honourable Vice President's visit. Honourable Vice President thanked President's Macky Sall for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation during his visit. Three important agreements were signed during this visit: One is co-operation in youth affairs. Second is the cultural exchange program - the renewal of the cultural exchange program and visa waiver for diplomatic and official passport holders of both countries. Honourable Vice President also announced revival upgradation of the phase two of the entrepreneurship development and technology centre in Dakar, which has been doing very well in the first phase. Now, it's going to the second phase with an upgradation and contribution totally from India on that front.

Today, there was a visit by Honourable President to the National Assembly, where he met the President of the National Assembly and members of the parliament. Again, very warm reception he received at the National Assembly. The President of the National Assembly was recalling his visit to India in a very warm way and he also touched about how both sides exchanged the democratic traditions, how countries are managing free and fair elections, democratic traditions, which also unite us in another sense. And that was a reiteration today of that sense of unity. There was also a discussion about greater cultural enhancement, including Bollywood, people to people exchanges and the parliamentarian exchanges. Vice President invited President of the National Assembly to visit India at a mutually convenient time. This is basically about the visit. Of course, yesterday, Honourable Vice President visited the program consisted of visiting monument, the African Renaissance monument, the Museum of Black Civilization and the Dakar Biennale visit. All these were very enriching, gave us a deep insight into the history of this place, and how the country has evolved over a period of time and Africa in sense of their own civilizational depth that it has assumed.

If there are questions, I will take. But of course, the content wise, we had a lot of economic issues which were touched. Both sides talked about the bilateral trade growing in the last two years. It has grown by 35 to 37%, which is now - 1.65 billion is the bilateral trade. There are lines of credit, which have been effectively utilized by Senegal and even the buyer’s credit, which is a concessional loan given for Indian entrepreneurs to do projects here, that have also been well utilized. Honourable President here of Senegal requested for greater support of India in many areas. For example, railways: The Indian expertise could be very valuable for doing projects here, so is in the healthcare sector - to be able to manufacture vaccines or medicines locally and create value addition. In a broader sense, he wants India to be a reliable partner in his vision of the Emergent Senegal 2035.

Honourable Vice President reiterated India's commitment to be a credible and reliable, enduring partner of Senegal. In that, to drive that vision forward, many ideas came up in that context. We will be going back to look at the feasibility and taking forward those ideas and proposals further. So I’ll leave it as the Ambassador would like to supplement.

Shri G. V. Srinivas, Ambassador of India to Senegal: Thank you very much. Secretary (Economic Relations) has briefed comprehensively on all that has happened during the discussions, both official as also the visit to the various cultural places that Dakar has to offer. I would like to only supplement two points. There was a clear emphasis both by President Macky Sall and our Vice President, that there has to be more B2B level engagement in the area of trade and economy that matches with our own priorities in the area of promoting TTT, that is, trade, technology, and tourism, that is to be furthered. Then sector wise, an interest in the area of oil and gas was presented from the Indian side, which readily was welcomed by President Macky Sall. The two sides have been encouraged to remain in touch to see how this mutual interest can be taken forward by focusing on areas of direct interest. The last thing, which he advised was regarding the mining areas in which the two sides discussed, on that, our side expressed interest in the mining resources that Senegal has. President Macky Sall also encouraged that there be cooperation in the area of research, exploration and exploitation, of the resources which would be of mutual interest to us. The last, of course, but not the least, either the two sides need to be in closer touch to see what are the formats of collaboration to take forward, what is the dynamic collaboration as we speak in the area of development partnership to the level of B2B, which also is dynamic. But there is a lot of scope which is yet untapped, which needs to be taken forward. Thank you.

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Thank you, Secretary. Thank you, Ambassador. That was a comprehensive overview of what has the past one and a half days and today been like. Now I'll open the floor to questions. Please pass on the microphone. Are there any questions? Please use the microphone and introduce yourself.

Mr.Sushil Batra: Sir, myself Sushil Batra, I’m from ANI. Sir, is India still providing scholarship program for training Senegal personnel under its Indian technical and economic cooperation program?

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): See we have an ongoing program in ITEC since 1964. But utilization as far as Senegal is concerned, I understand, it's still limited because of the language issues. But there has been utilization. Senegal is also part of our e-Vidya Bharati initiative wherein you have online educational courses offered, and a lot of Senegalese have availed of it. We are trying to improve that scope so that a large number of Senegalese students are able to avail of this online degree courses that is offered by India, and that is totally free. I-Tech, we'll have to see whether greater number of scholarships could be availed by Senegalese. Maybe, we have to see in terms of how we can fix the language which has become a hurdle, but that again, Sevala, would you have some ideas on that?

Shri Sevala Naik, Joint Secretary Central and West Africa: Thank you sir. Let me share on capacity building and skill development. India offers a variety of schemes in education sector, scholarships from ICCR, study in India program and also from e-Vidya Bharati and e-Arogya Bharati. Well, the phase one was extremely successful and Senegal was one of the first country to join. In the phase two they are about to join is taking off. Indian education system is very popular among the Senegalese students and there are a good number of students studying and pursuing higher studies in India. The question of language is the issue. We have been offering learning English so that they can study in India and in other courses as well. Well, apart from this, I think it's basically the quality of education in India is very high. They are aware of this, but they have been using it very well. Thank you.

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): I think one correction is, in the Phase one, Senegal is not yet for the e-Vidya Bharti. I think the phase two, I believe, there is some depth and talks are on-going for them to come on board. But I think another area where we have to really look at is, in today's, this visit is going to facilitate greater exchanges in the diplomatic arena of particularly training of Senegalese diplomat in India and I think that's going to take off. How many have been trained so far in the past?

Shri G. V. Srinivas, Ambassador of India to Senegal: We had a batch of 20 Senegalese diplomats who had gone as a bunch. Of course, they have been also going to India in one or two, like our professional course for foreign diplomat’s program. But that was there because of which, we have a series of official’s, high level in Senegalese Foreign Office who have been trained in India. But on top of this in the year 2019, we had a group of 20 trainee at one go, which was a very successful program, something which Secretary refer to now has again been offered to the government of Senegal, as a part of discussion between the President and the Honourable Vice President of India.

And if you allow me Ravi one thing, which was also common was the fascination in Senegal, the really warmth which we have about Bollywood. And then the kind of stars which they all remember very very warmly, was something that was common, I must say across all the leadership and the passion is also for the language Hindi which the people speak. So that really set the tone for the people-to-people relationship between India and Senegal and providing the way forward for building on it in the other areas.

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Thank you, Sir. Any more questions? Yes, Anchal.

Mr. Anchal Gulati: Sir, my name is Anchal Gulati from DD News. Sir, as Honourable Vice President had said yesterday (16:07 inaudible), the second MOU which have been signed regarding the cultural cooperation between the two countries. Which will be the areas or the programs we will be focusing upon in future? Thank you sir.

Shri G. V. Srinivas, Ambassador of India to Senegal: The cultural exchange program as you know, is an enabling platform which allows you to actually undertake the activities which we generally do, but finding at times difficulty. But with such a program already existing provides us the readily available underpinning to facilitate these things. We have been having, predominantly, based on interest in Senegal, Bollywood, cultural troupes have been coming here. We also have been presenting the Indian classical dance forms: Odissi, Kuchipudi, all have been coming and performing here. Now, with this MoU which we are signing, we would like to see whether we can also take it forward. For example, for the movies mutual co-production, using the sides of each other for shooting of the movies. But these are all ambitious program for future, once again building on the existing positive ready warmth that Indian Bollywood has in Senegal.

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): Do we have anybody else? Navvikram Ji please.

Mr. Navvikram Singh: Navvikram Singh from Sansad TV. Sir, Senegal has a good number of Indian community member. So, what the embassy is doing for facilitate in education and, because some of them are working in Indian communities, some of them running our own business. So, what are you doing for facilitating education for Indian community who's here?

Shri G. V. Srinivas, Ambassador of India to Senegal: The area of education, providing something which is also close to India, particularly for those Indians who come here only for a brief period of time, then they had to go back to India, is something which had been felt. But the issue which we face, invariably as elsewhere is numbers. Do we have adequate numbers to make it sustainable? Now that issue is grappled by not only the Indian School which is to come. We have already been approaching DPS, for example Kendriya Vidyalaya. Embassy has been approaching our schools to come and open a franchise here. But the usual question which they ask, which is also true of the other schools which exists in the country, are something which is stopping us. But we are at it. Let us see whether that will materialize in times to come. That's a project for future.

Ms. Navya Singla, Under Secretary (DD): If there are no more questions, then we can probably close the briefing. Yes, we can also take some questions from our friends from the local media, please.

[In French]

Okay. Thank you so much, friends for joining us for this special briefing. Thank you, Secretary Sir, Ambassador Sir and Joint Secretary Sir, for giving us an overview of the visit to Senegal. Please stay tuned for updates on the ongoing visit of the Honourable Vice President. Thank you so much.

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