Vice President Hamid Ansari is currently in Rwanda as part of a five-day visit to the African country and also to Uganda, seeking to further boost ties with the countries and enhance India’s engagement with the African continent.
This is the first high-level visit from India to Rwanda and the first high-level bilateral visit from the country to Uganda since 1997, MEA officials said.
Since its independence from Belgium in July, 1962, Rwanda was plagued by a protracted and internecine conflict between the three dominant groups viz. Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. After several failed efforts, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the Government of Rwanda signed the Arusha Peace Accord in 1993. But with the assassination of the Hutu President of Rwanda in April 1994, Rwanda once again plunged into violence in which an estimated 1 million people died. Since then, the civil war has ended and Rwanda is moving steadily on the path of recovery and national reconciliation.
During this visit to Rwanda from February 19-21 and Uganda from February 21-23, Ansari will seek to broaden the country’s diplomatic footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Vice President along with wife Salma, the Minister of State for Social Justice & Empowerment, Shri Vijay Sampla and other members of the Official delegation are part of the delegation.
“The Vice President would pay homage at the genocide museum (in Kigali), interact with the Indian community there and attend a banquet hosted by the Prime Minister of Rwanda,” a senior MEA official said.
Ansari’s visit comes shortly after the visit of President of Rwanda for the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in January this year.
“India-Rwanda relations are marked by cordiality, convergence of views and cooperation on major international issues, increasing bilateral trade and investments, greater people-to-people contact and a deep sense of mutual respect,” the official said.
“During his visit to Uganda from February 21-23, the Vice President would be meeting his counterpart and the President of Uganda. Ansari would also interact with the Indian community in Kampala,” he said.
The Vice President will also address India-Uganda Business Forum. Besides, he would be paying floral tribute to the bust of Mahatma Gandhi at Jinja.
In Rwanda, Ansari will launch India-Rwanda Innovation Growth Programme as part of which there would be a technology expo of India’s low-cost innovations. The Vice President along with the Prime Minister of Rwanda would also address an India-Rwanda Business Forum, he added.
The Vice President said that the President of India has visited three countries, the Prime Minister has visited four countries and he himself has visited five countries so far, and this visit will add another two. This is a part of a conscious effort by the Government to intensify our interaction with countries of Africa at the highest political level, he added.
Addressing the Media onboard Air India One enroute to the continent for a five-day visit to Rwanda & Uganda. India is shifting away from its painful experience of early 1990s, the Rwandan economy has reported consistent high growth. There is an increased focus on business and a business delegation from India is also visiting Rwanda to coincide with the Vice President’s visit. He further said that Indian companies could look at making Rwanda an entry point for Africa by utilizing the dynamism of the Rwandan economy. As part of our development cooperation, we have collaborated with Rwanda on several projects, he added.
The Vice President said that Uganda has a large number people of Indian origin and they continue to play an important role in the economic growth of Uganda. Uganda perceives an important role for itself in Africa and we have very good relations with them, he added.
The Vice President said that we have a strong developmental cooperation with both the nations, which is unique because the priority is defined by the African partners themselves.
How safe are African nationals in India?
Reacting to a question on safety of African nationals in India, the Vice President said that the Government has made its position very clear that these are rare and sporadic attacks by anti-social elements. He further said that the issues have been raised at diplomatic levels and our response has been comprehensive and is satisfactory to African friends. It has not affected the flow of African students who come in large numbers to India, he added.
To a question on India’s assistance in development of African nations, the Vice President said that these countries are interested in using our own experience of dealing with similar challenges. We have had some success with projects like e-medicine etc. in the past and that we would continue to provide them all possible assistance in accordance with their wishes.
To a question on what could be the areas of India’s cooperation with African nations, the Vice President said that we have left it for our development partners in Africa to identify their own priorities and it is they who decide where they want to benefit from Indian knowledge and expertise. Once they do that, then we transform it into concrete projects of assistance. The experience so far, has been satisfactory for both, he added.