Modi gifts cows

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a five-day three-nation tour of the African continent on Monday, with his first stop being Rwanda, a first prime ministerial visit to a country with a population less than Delhi’s.

Ahead of the visit, the external affairs ministry said “Africa has been a top priority of India’s foreign policy.”

“The visit to Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa will further strengthen our relations with the African continent,” the ministry noted.

Over the last few years, there has been significant engagement in various fields with African countries. There have been 23 outgoing visits to Africa by the President, Vice President and Prime Minister in the last four years. It is Modi’s second visit to mainland Africa after he visited Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya in 2016.

So what makes the landlocked Central African country of Rwanda, in particular, so special?

FEMALE POWER: With nearly two-third of its parliamentarians women, it has the highest proportion of women in parliament in the world. India, on the other hand, has struggled to pass the 33% women reservation bill to have one-third of its Lok Sabha, state legislature and local bodies seats reserved for women.

COW: Modi’s visit is not without symbolism — he’s gifting 200 cows sourced locally to a village in the country’s eastern province as part of the Girinka programme which mandates 1 cow for 1 poor family, with the first female calf that is born from that cow gifted to the family’s neighbour, which enables the poorest in Rwanda to have a livelihood. The national social protection scheme was personally initiated by the Rwandan president.

MAKING CAPITAL: Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, could teach a thing or two to India’s metros, particularly New Delhi, in terms of its cleanliness and punctuality of public transport—and to think that its actual progress started only in 1994 after a bloody civil war and genocide.

GATEWAY TO EASTERN AFRICA: India elevated its ties with Rwanda to that of a Strategic Partnership in January last year. India will open its first mission in Rwanda very soon. India’s current high commissioner to Rwanda has residence in Kampala, Uganda. Rwanda is also a recipient of Indian lines of credit of nearly $400 million and of Indian training and scholarship programmes. During Modi’s visit, two more lines of credit are expected to be signed – one of $100 million for industrial parks and a similar amount for agriculture and irrigation. Agreements will be concluded in the areas of defence, dairy cooperation, leather, agriculture and culture.

CHINESE CHECKERS: Modi’s visit coincides with the visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived on Sunday, a first-ever visit by a Chinese president as well. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is the Chair of the African Union, and both the Asian powers are wooing African countries for their natural resources. China is Africa’s largest trading partner, and it also seeks closer military ties. China opened its first military base on the continent last year in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.

WHILE IN RWANDA: The Prime Minister will be accorded a ceremonial reception. He then heads for a one-on-one meeting and delegation level talks with the Rwandan president. Later, there will be an exchange of agreements followed by dinner, hosted by the Rwandan president and reception, hosted by the High Commissioner for Indian Community.

 

(Inputs from agencies)

 

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