Friday, April 7, 2006 (New Delhi):
In a major boost to New Delhi’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, a 15-country African grouping has backed India’s inclusion in the powerful world body.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation wrapped up its visit to India with the promise of improving not just political ties, but also cooperating with the country in strategic areas of trade.
A hardsell for India’s railways and infrastructure to make inroads into West Africa would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the importance of the ECOWAS delegation. Its 15 leaders represent crucial constituencies. For instance, the leader of the group is a minister from Niger.
The country is much talked about in the west for its food crises. But relatively unknown is the fact that it’s the world’s third largest source of uranium. India’s offer of help like a $250 million line of credit comes at a time when it views nuclear fuel as the answer to its energy needs.
"It is essential to look to India now as India has demonstrated over the years that it has managed to narrow the food gap effectively and that is why we are so keen to do business here," said Mme Aichatou Mindaudou, Minister for Affairs & Chair, ECOWAS.
The numbers here too add up strategically for India.Most of the countries represented here are members of the Organisation of Islamic Countries – a forum Pakistan uses to criticise India on the issue of Kashmir.They also hold the key to backing India’s ambitions for a permanent place on the UN Security Council.
"India and Africa must work hand in hand to ensure reform of the United Nations and reflect the changing global realities. And it is important given the changing realities to see India become a member of the Security Council," said Dr Mohd Ibr Chambas, Executive Secretary, ECOWAS.
So as the two sides sign agreements in areas like infrastructure, agriculture and investment, it’s an alliance that could well see a region once dependent on the west for aid leaning heavily east towards India.