New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's five-day visit to four key countries of African continent will begin on Thursday, the key focus of which will be deepening cooperation in areas of hydrocarbons, maritime security, trade and investment, agriculture and food.
The four countries — Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya, are considered gateway to many landlocked African nations and Modi, on his first bilateral visit, will try to bring a new momentum to India's ties with the continent where China has been trying to increase its clout.
The Prime Minister's visit comes within weeks of President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari travelling to Africa with an aim to strengthen and reinvigorate India's ties with the nations of the continent.
Briefing the media, Amar Sinha, Secretary, Economic Relations, in the Ministry of External Affairs said a number of pacts will be signed with each of the four countries in a variety of areas during the Prime Minister's visit.
India imports large quantity of pulses from Africa and, during the visit, a pact with Mozambique is likely to be firmed up for long-term procurement of the commodity beginning with procurement of 100,000 tonnes. The government has been drawing a lot of criticism over the past few months over rising price of pulses.
Under the agreement, India may support a network of farmers in the country who will be given logistical support, technology and seeds and pulses will be procured from them through government agencies.
India will also look at expanding cooperation with Mozambique in the hydrocarbons sector. Mozambique is the third largest exporter of natural gas after Qatar and Australia and a number of Indian companies including ONGC have invested heavily in the hydrocarbons sector in that country.
Modi's first destination will be Mozambique where he will have bilateral discussions with President Nyusi on 7 July. On the second leg of his tour from 8 to 9 July, Modi will be in South Africa.
On 10 July, the Prime Minister will visit Tanzania and, on the final leg of his trip, he will travel to Kenya.
The Prime Minister will address the Indian community in all the four countries. He will address large gatherings in Johannesburg and Nairobi which have significant number of Indian origin people.
"We are looking at consolidating gains of the India-Africa Forum Summit," said Sinha.
India had organised a four-day summit here with African countries in October last year which was attended by representatives of 54 African nations, including heads of state and government of around 40 countries.
In South Africa, the Prime Minister will visit Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.
On the second day of his stay, Modi will undertake a journey by the historic train which was taken by Mahatma Gandhi to Pietermaritzburg. Gandhi was thrown out of the train when he refused to follow the order to move out of a first class compartment in which coolies and non-whites were not allowed to travel. The Prime Minister will take the last 15 kms of the journey to Pietermaritzburg, besides visiting the Pheonix ashram.
His visit to Kenya will be first in 35 years by an Indian Prime Minister, while to Mozambique it will be after a gap of 34 years. It will be a visit to South Africa by an Indian Prime Minister after 10 years, said Sinha.
He said all the four countries are gateway to a number of landlocked countries in Africa and Indian traders rely heavily on ports of thse countries to export goods.
Sinha said ways to expand security cooperation, particularly in the maritime domain, with the four countries will be a major dimension of the trip. The focus will also be on exploiting the blue economy and increasing the overall trade ties. The blue economy places emphasis on access to necessities such as health and education by implementing a local system of production and consumption based on what you already have.
He said reform of the UN Security Council and India's bid for permanent membership will figure in talks, adding Africa has been supporting New Delhi on it.
India's current trade with Africa is around $75 billion and it has granted a whopping $7.4 billion for various developmental and capacity building projects in the past four years. India has implemented nearly 140 projects in 41 African countries during the period.
Asked about China's growing activities in Africa, Sinha said the continent has tremendous requirement for infrastructure building and India does not see any "contradiction" as everybody can chip in. At the same time, he said India was not scrambling for minerals and other resources in Africa.
In Mozambique, Modi will have bilateral discussions with President Nyusi, while in South Africa he will have extensive deliberations with President Jacob Zuma and other senior leaders across the political spectrum.
India is looking at deeper engagement with South Africa in defence manufacturing besides close cooperation in areas of coal gasification and deep mining as the country has expertise in them.
Sinha said contaray to media reports South Africa was supportive of India's bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at its pleanary meeting in Seoul last month.
In Tanzania, he will hold talks with President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli on a range of issues, while in Kenya, he will have bilateral discussions with President Kenyatta. India was keen to have deeper sports ties with Kenya, particularly in long-distance running.
The Prime Minister will also address students at the University of Nairobi. He is likely to announce a number of Line of Credits (LoCs).
Modi will address the Indian community in stadiums in both Nairobi and Johannesburg.
(With PTI inputs)