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Vice-President’s Africa trip: India inks MoU to buy diamonds from Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe trip is the second leg of Naidu’s three nation tour in Africa which started with Botswana and will end with Malawi.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | Harare | November 4, 2018 1:43:00 am
Vice President, M. Venkaiah Naidu and President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa during a meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, Saturday, Nov 3, 2018. (Source: PTI Photo)

India may soon start buying diamonds directly from Zimbabwe, as a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the presence of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in Harare on Saturday. The Zimbabwe trip is the second leg of Naidu’s three nation tour in Africa which started with Botswana and will end with Malawi.

India also promised more $350 million line of credit for three power and water projects to Zimbabwe, which is in addition to the loans of more than $100 million extended to the country.

Naidu had called on Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the two had a “very warm” meeting, which lasted for over an hour, Secretary (Economic Affairs), Ministry of External Affairs TS Tirumurti said at a media briefing later. The trip, both the leaders agreed will “take our relations to the next level”. Last high-level visit from India happened when HD Deve Gowda was the Prime Minister.

Mnangagwa thanked India “for being supportive of Zimbabwe during its period of isolation” and was “deeply appreciative of India’s stand that it refused to join others in imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe” over the last few years, Tirumurti said.

He emphasised that “relations with Zimbabwe are on a very, very solid foundation” and at “no point of time” has India “not supported” the African nation. In fact, he mentioned that former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was present at the ceremony when Zimbabwe had gained independence from the British in 1980.

Zimbabwe is planning to become a middle-income economy by 2030 and are looking at countries like India “to give them the type of, not just share out expertise, but also our industry to come and invest here,” Tirumurti said.

The Zimbabwe’s president praised India’s development and “expressed desire to enhance cooperation in a range of areas,” Tirumurti said, adding that Mnangagwa also “called for greater Indian assistance and expertise to take Zimbabwe’s economic development forward”.

Tirumurti said that Indian and Zimbabwe have great ” synergy” and mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised earlier that “we will support Indian industry to come and invest” in Africa.

Naidu conveyed India’s decision to deploy five experts in Zimbabwe under the ITEC programme. The two nations also discussed the “reform and expansion of the UN Security Council”, and combating terrorism, climate change, renewable energy. India also extended its support to Zimbabwe for rejoining the commonwealth, Tirumurti informed reporters.

Though Zimbabwe is yet to ratify the International Solar Alliance, the Vice President thanked them for signing its framework agreement.

Meeting with Mnangagwa was followed by the Indian Vice President’s meeting with Zimbabwean Vice President Kimbo Mahadi, who had also received him at the airport on Friday.

After the meeting of the two vice presidents delegates from the two nations discussed a range of areas including defence cooperation, trade and investment, development cooperation, capacity building, international cooperation, sports, culture and people-to-people links.

In defence, one of the areas discussed, India will now give eight slots to Zimbabwe defence forces in India’s premier defence training institutes.

India extended line of credit for $310 million for extension of the life of Huange thermal power plant, $23 million for Bulawayo thermal power plant and $19.5 million for Deka Pumping and Water Intake System. These are in addition to lines of credit of $ 87 mn and $ 28 mn which we have given earlier for these plants, Tirumurti said. The Indian delegation also “acceded to Zimbabwe’s request to supply 10 ambulances,” and will also gift “life-saving drugs”, which, Tirumurti said Zimbabwe wants “immediately”.

“Both sides agreed that there is a need to advance our trade and investment ties given the vast potential,” said Tirumruti, mentioning that the Zimbabwe’s president had also welcomed Indian investments into sectors that were identified for potential business engagements, like agriculture, health, traditional medicines, pharmaceuticals, mining, diamond trading among others.

Pharmaceuticals and health “in particular were identified by both sides,” Tirumurti mentioned. Both Zimbabwe’s president and Naidu, he said “attached a lot of importance to health cooperation”. They were also looking at whether our pharmaceutical companies can come and have a presence in Zimbabwe, Tirumurti told the reporters, including the private sector and it was discussed how such companies can be attracted. Six agreements were signed in Naidu’s presence that were regarding cooperation in the field of geology and mining, traditional field and homeopathy, broadcasting and an action plan in the field of information technology.

In the field of mining, Tirumurti said that for diamond trade, “we have proposed to them that we would be quite happy to do direct diamond trade with them, because of now Zimbabwean diamonds come to India but from different channels”. Zimbabwe, he said was “extremely enthused with the idea of direct diamond trade with us” and there was a “very concrete outcome of the discussions”.

The bilateral trade between the two countries is worth $230 million, which, Naidu said is “far below the potential”.

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