New Delhi, March 15 (IANS) Against the backdrop of China's surging trade with Africa, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Monday outlined the unique Indian model of engagement with the continent that revolves around capacity building, training and private sector investments.
'The model of our cooperation with Africa is clearly one seeking mutual benefit through a consultative process,' Tharoor said at the sixth India-Africa business conclave.
'We do not wish to go and demand certain rights or projects or impose our ideas in Africa. But we do want to contribute to the achievement of Africa's development objectives as they have been set by our African partners,' Tharoor said.
The conclave is expected to discuss business projects worth at least $10 billion and prepare a roadmap for the second India-Africa Forum Summit next year.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna inaugurated the two-day conclave Monday morning.
Nearly 400 African political and business leaders, including several ministers, have flown in from 34 African countries to attend the summit.
Although Tharoor did not name China, it was an oblique reference to the Chinese practice of doing business with Africa that stands out in contrast to the agenda-free approach of India.
India's bilateral trade with Africa is currently around $39 billion compared to China-Africa trade of $109 billion, but New Delhi has taken care to distinguish its singular approach towards the continent that revolves around the empowerment of the continent as opposed to mere profit-seeking.
'We are not seeing it in competitive terms. India's engagement with Africa stands on its own,' Tharoor later told journalists when asked about the possibilities of competition and rivalry between India and China in Africa.
'We don't go with any agenda. The Indian private sector is very effective in Africa,' he said while outlining key aspects of what he called India's model of cooperation with Africa.
Besides the consultative process and the spirit of friendship, Tharoor pointed out that the Indian approach involved sharing of knowledge and experience, both in political and economic terms.
'This sharing of experiences on political cooperation is, therefore, another aspect of our non-intrusive support to the development of democratic institutions in our partner countries,' he said.
'Similarly, areas of human resource development and capacity building have been at the forefront of our partnership with Africa,' said Tharoor, who is in charge of Africa in the external affairs ministry.
Tharoor, a former UN diplomat with wide-ranging contacts with the African leadership, also commended the Indian private sector for leading the push to scale up trade and investment with Africa.
The investment flows, Tharoor pointed out, were matched by a commitment by the Indian government which pledged $5.4 billion in new lines of credits at the India-Africa Forum summit.
'We represent an accessible model of development and to create in Africa a model for other developing countries,' he said.
India and Africa plan to scale up their bilateral trade to $70 billion by 2015.
The Indian model, Tharoor stressed, was visible in the joint action plan India and Africa launched last week that included the creation of training programmes and the establishment of 19 institutions in Africa with the African Union Commission and the member states.
'This is an important feature of our new model of engagement with Africa,' he said.
The action plan envisages India setting up a host of training institutes in Africa in areas of diamond polishing, IT, vocational education and Pan-African Stock Exchange.