State Visit of Indian Prime Minister to Rwanda for Rapport

By Neeta Baporikar*


State Visit of Indian Prime Minister to Rwanda for Rapport

Ambiance Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi undertook a State visit to the Republic of Rwanda from 23-24th July 2018, at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. This was the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Rwanda. This was also the fifth high-level interaction between India and Rwanda in just last two years including two visits by President of Rwanda to India, visit by the Vice President of India to Rwanda and recent visit by President of Rwanda to India. Therefore, what does this signify and imply for in near future.

Overview India is an old player in international development. Initially, its development assistance was small, aimed at building local capacities, historically devoted to the provision of technical skills and training and focused on its immediate neighbourhood (Harris &Vittorini, 2015). This was concurrent with India’s limited financial capabilities of the time. Yet also an expression of strong ideological commitments. During 1950s-1960s, loans, grants, and technical training were the main means of development assistance offered. In 1964, India created its first formal institution for development assistance, the still-existing Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).

On the other hand, the upsurge in India-Africa relations today, comes since the world has acknowledged India’s growth story. The rapid growth of our economy over the last 25 years has provided India with additional resources, not only to augment its own developmental efforts, but also to collaborate with others in their developmental efforts across the world, and particularly in Africa. It is also at a time when Africa has cast-off its image of deprivation, hopelessness and is taking control of its own resources and destiny, as winds of progress, peace and participation sweep across the continent. India’s engagement with Africa has its own unique script, to which even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to as, ‘a strong emotional link’ defined by shared history of struggle against colonialism and aspiration to bring prosperity to people.

What drives African-Indian engagement is the imperatives and the basis of shared challenges, common interests, and perceptions of mutual benefit. India, despite the constraints of its growing economy, was a forerunner in championing the interests of developing countries, including those from Africa, through initiatives such as the Bandung declaration of 1955, the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement. Further, India also shares close, warm and friendly relations with African countries, which exist due to robust development partnership and a large presence of the Indian Diaspora.

India is increasingly an important source of investment for projects in Africa, which span diverse sectors such as pharmaceuticals, information technology and telecommunications, engineering, education, health and agriculture.

Rwanda: An Attraction An article in The Economist last year said that “buoyed by better farm incomes, since 2000, Rwanda has notched up growth rates of 8% a year, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world (though still one of the poorest). Many talks of a “Rwandan miracle”, and look to it for lessons in development.” The International Monetary Fund in an assessment last year said that while Africa would clock an economic growth of 3.8% and Rwanda’s economy was likely to expand at 7.2 %. Agriculture, mining and quarrying are the key economic activities. The country is one of the largest producers of tin, tantalum, and tungsten besides good quality silica sands. Seemingly buoyed by its economic success, Rwanda is also increasingly playing a role in African affairs (Ssuuna, 2013).

This also means that there are the ‘opportunities’ for Rwanda in today’s global economic environment and more so to play lead role in Eastern African (Nanda, 2012). On the other hand, India and China are seeming becoming big players not only in Asia but globally. Therefore, it will augur well for a country like Rwanda under transformation to engage with India in particular, due to the historic and emotional link. India on its part will be extending its “development partnership” and Rwanda is already a recipient of credit worth $400 million.

What the State Visit Entailed Over the last few years, there has been a significant intensification of India’s engagement in various fields with African countries. There have been as many as 23 outgoing visits to Africa at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister in the last four years. Africa has been the top priority of India’s Foreign Policy. Prime Minister programme included bilateral delegation level talks, interaction with the Indian community, addressing business event jointly organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB). Prime Minister also visited the Gisozi Genocide Memorial and participation in an event in Rweru Model village outside Kigali under ‘Girinka programme’, a social protection scheme of one cow - one family and gifted cows as a contribution from India to the Scheme.

The visit also provided an opportunity for Rwanda leaders to explore what India offered to them. The outcome document “Declaration on Strategic Partnership between India and Rwanda” reflected the common positions of India and Rwanda on a wide array of political and economic issues as well as an articulation of joint commitment to deepening cooperation in the following important ways: • To be mindful of shared common values and mutual respect for each other, sharing the common goal of rapid economic development, enhancing global peace, ensuring security and eliminating the menace of cross-border terrorism • To strengthen bonds of brotherhood, widening the scope of co-operation and of promoting the mutual interests of their respective people; • To recognize both countries are gateways to their respective regions and take into account India’s growing engagement with the African continent; • To acknowledge the role of India as an important partner for Africa’s development specially the initiatives under the India-Africa Forum Summit; • To be driven by complementarities between the economies of India and Rwanda and opportunities for partnerships across diverse areas; • To resolve in maximise the economic potential of both countries and reflect the ongoing transformation of their economies and the global economic order. • To acknowledge United Nations’ structures and the need to be more representative of the current realities that reflect the concerns and diversities of the developing world and appreciate the role played in the field of international peace and security by committing regularly to various UN peacekeeping Missions; • To understanding the impacts of Climate Change, and the role of International Solar Alliance in supporting access to renewable energy across the world. In addition, the visits also facilitated in signing of many significant Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) and Agreements. Table 1 lists them.

Table 1: List of MoUs and Agreements Signed

table1

Conclusion Rwanda so far has benefitted from projects implemented under the Indian Lines of Credit through EXIM Bank, of nearly $400 million (Hydropower, Agriculture, Skill Development, and Infrastructure), several grant projects (VTC, Solar Electrification) and from training and scholarship programs (ITEC, ICCR, IAFS). This visit by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi further provided impetus and a new direction to India - Rwanda relations based on equality, mutual respect and shared gains in addition to identifying broad areas of cooperation in political, economic and social development. However, whether the monetary ties between Rwanda and its new- found Asian ‘friends’ are indeed a positive-sum game for all parties concerned, only time will decide. Yet, these developments are positive and good beginning. The relations are a long way from reaching the peak, however, the great potential; therefore, in this relationship is that both countries, India and Rwanda can seize the opportunity to benefit meaningfully from its engagement enlargement.

References • Harris D., Vittorini S. (2015) What Does ‘Development Cooperation’ Mean? Perceptions from India and Africa. In: Sullivan K. (eds) Competing Visions of India in World Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, London • Nanda K. (2012) New ‘Friends’ of Rwanda—Chinese Noodles and Indian Curry: An Analysis of Asian Giants’ Forays into Rwanda in the Light of Theories on OFDI. In: Campioni M., Noack P. (eds) Rwanda Fast Forward. Palgrave Macmillan, London • Ssuuna, I. (2013). New Rwanda Airport Ready for Take-off. The East African, 13.

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