New Delhi: Eyeing to consolidate India's presence in resource-rich Africa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held wide-ranging talks with 19 heads of governments from the continent with a major focus on combating scourge of terrorism and steadfastly working towards reform of the UN Security Council.
In his bilateral talks with the African leaders, Modi asserted that fight against "international terrorism" can only succeed if there was "global concerted action" while on UN reform conveyed to them that it was time to "get together and take a firm stand" on the pressing issue.
Reflecting the importance New Delhi attaches to Indo-Africa ties, he told Chairperson of Africa Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma that "India Africa are made for each other" while pitching for further expansion of ties.
Ways to enhance defence and maritime cooperation, boosting trade and economic engagement, particularly in oil and gas sectors and expanding India's developmental projects in the continent also figured prominently in the talks.
The African leaders, in New Delhi to attend the India Africa Forum Summit tomorrow, sought India's assistance in variety of areas including health, education, agriculture, mining, energy, tourism and fisheries among others.
Representatives of 54 African nations including heads of state and government of around 40 countries and powerful African Union are expected to participate in the Summit, seen as India's effort to counter-balance growing Chinese influence in the continent.
Identifying terrorism as a major threat facing the globe, Modi said there was a need to remove the "legal lacunae" in fight against the menace stressing that the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism must be ratified by the UN.
Noting that any sidetracking in defining terrorism will weaken the fight, he said an "overreaching umbrella convention" was required to deal with the menace.
The leaders with whom Modi held bilateral talks include President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, President of Ghana John Dramani Mahama, King of Swaziland King Mswati III, President of Benin Boni Yayi, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Prime Minister of Lesotho Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili.
He also held bilateral talks with President Guinea Alpha Conde, President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of Niger Issoufou Mahamadou, President of Chad Idriss Deby Itno, South African President Jacob G Zuma and Prime Minister of Mozambique Carlos Agostinho do Rosario among others.
Talking about the 19 bilateral meetings, Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup said "this is sort of a new record." He said all the meetings were "structured".
In his meeting with the Nigerian President, Modi requested his to expedite the judicial process relating to 11 Indian crew members languishing in a jail in that country.
A number of African countries including Chad have decided to open their missions in New Delhi.
President of Niger has offered to sell uranium to India and sought greater investment by India in its oil sector.
In his meeting, South African President Jacob Zuma strongly called for reform of global governance system and said the UN structure which was set up after the Second World War cannot remain relevant in 21st century.
He said it was important that all like-minded countries come together to ensure reform of the UN, particularly the UN Security Council, observing that many conflicts in the world including the Syrian crisis could not be resolved because of differences among the veto-yielding UNSC member countries.
Swarup said almost all African leaders were on the same page with India on UNSC reform saying one-third of the global population cannot be kept away from decision making process.
The talks also figured challenges of climate change and issues relating to WTO.
In his meeting with Mugabe, who is also Chairman of African Union, Modi discussed issues of common interest, including UN reforms and the threat of terrorism.
In the meeting with President of Djibouti, Modi thanked him for extending help in evacuating Indians from Yemen earlier this year.
Some of the countries sought India's help in maritime security while several other sought cooperation in cyber security, IT and telecom sector.
The Nigerian President said there was huge scope for India's participation in the oil and gas sector. He said India has become the largest importer of crude oil replacing the US and it can participate in long-term projects in oil and gas sectors.
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was present in a number of meetings Modi had with countries having oil and gas reserves.
A number of countries including Kenya, Uganda, Niger and Chad sought deeper cooperation with India in tackling terrorism besides favouring enhancing defence ties.
Some countries sought increase in concessional line of credit by India.
Prime Minister of Mozambique Carlos Agostinho do Rosario favoured deeper ties with India in a range of areas including defence, security, agriculture and energy.
Some of the issues figured in Wednesday's meetings may find mention in a declaration likely to be released after the summit.
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Updated Date: Oct 28, 2015 23:09:08 IST