By The Piper
“Today, the heart beat of 1.25 billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm.
We are among the world’s oldest civilisations. We are each a vibrant mosaic of languages, religions and cultures. Our histories have intersected since ages. Once united by geography, we are now linked by the Indian Ocean.
The currents of the mighty ocean have nurtured the ties of kinship, commerce, and culture through centuries. Generations of Indians and Africans have travelled to each other’s land in search of their destiny or by the force of circumstances. Either way, we have enriched each other and strengthened our ties”.
Those were the words of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of the third India-Africa Summit held in New Delhi October 26-29. The Summit was co-chaired by the Indian Prime Minister and the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. Forty one heads of state attended, including South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma who is the current Chair of the African Union.
The Summit was a massive success in a number of ways, and not least because it underlines the fact that South-South cooperation is the way forward for the Global South, especially if Africa, Asia, and Latin America-Caribbean want to bring their economic, political and cultural sovereignty to full form. South-South cooperation was a goal articulated by both President Forbes Burnham and President Cheddi Jagan, and for that matter, the entire Non-Aligned movement. I have no doubt that President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo would also be inspired by these developments.
The Summit produced two key documents — Delhi Declaration 2015 – Partners in Progress: Towards a Dynamic and Transformative Development Agenda,” and India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation.
Since the first Summit in 2008, India has committed 7.4 billion dollars in concessional credit and more than one billion dollars in grants. A further 10 billion dollars in soft loans was committed in New Delhi last week, and Modi announced a 100 million dollars India-Africa Development Fund. The Indian Prime Minister also noted that since 2008, 25,000 African students have been educated in India and more than 50,000 scholarships will be made available over the next five years. India will also use it prodigious technological capabilities to build out a major Pan Africa E-Network and help set up the Pan Africa Virtual University.
The Summit must, of course, force one to recall the historic Bandung Conference that was held in Indonesia in 1955. One key element of Bandung was to foster united action to beat back colonialism and imperialism. That Afro-Asian conference as it was widely dubbed at the time was also the first place where The People’s Republic of China first staked its international legitimacy. Foreign Minister Chou-En-Lai- represented the PRC and was by all accounts extremely popular with the other delegates. I raise this point only to underline that today both India and China are actively involved in Africa. To date, one of the biggest critiques from the West of India and especially China in Africa is that aid is given without any attachment.
The Delhi Declaration 2015 contains language that must inspire real hope in South-South cooperation. Point eight of the document states “…that the peoples of Africa and India have known each other across the Indian Ocean for millennia. Our shared common experience of a colonial past and the solidarity of our resistance to it, have cemented our common yearning for a more just and fair international political and economic order in an increasingly globalized world.”
Delhi Declaration 2015 is also about structured cooperation in health, agriculture, trade and commerce, multilateralism, blue/ocean economy, territorial integrity, and cultural recognition. Given that in addition to our indigenous population, Guyanese are principally of African and Indian heritages, we might ponder the call to solidarity above with due consideration.