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Making up for time lost to China in building successful partnerships in Africa, India announced a slew of measures that would help pave the way for a fruitful relationship with Africa. Chief among the measures was that of providing duty-free preferential market access to exports from the world’s 50 least developed countries to India. This includes 34 nations in mineral and oil-rich Africa where New Delhi seeks to expand the level of its engagement.

As a gesture of India’s serious intent towards the African continent, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries. Making the announcement, Mr Singh said that India recognises the “crucial importance of market access in ensuring the development dimension of international trade”.

This would mean that India will unilaterally provide preferential market access for exports from these countries. The scheme will cover 94%of India’s total tariff lines. It will provide preferential market access on tariff lines that comprise 92.5%of global exports of all LDCs. For Africa, products covered by the scheme include cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts, cane sugar, ready-made garments, fish fillets and non-industrial diamonds.

Elaborating on India’s historical connections with the ‘mother- continent’ Africa, Prime Minister Singh announced a series of initiatives including increase in India’s Lines of Credit to $5.4 billion over the next five years from $2.15 billion extended between 2003 and 2008.

In what would be seen as a further gesture of India’s commitment to partner Africa in its developmental objectives, Mr Singh said that India would undertake projects against grants in excess of $500 million over the next five to six years.

“The objective of our partnership is to co-operate with all the countries of Africa, within the limits of our capacities and capabilities, in their efforts towards achieving economic vibrancy, peace, stability and self-reliance. Towards this end, it is our intention to become a close partner in Africa’s resurgence”, the prime minister said.

Broadening the ambit of this partnership, Mr Singh said, “transfer of knowledge and human skills will strengthen our mutual capabilities. Such exchanges must go beyond government-to-government interactions and embrace our civil society, academics, artists and writers.” The effort it would seem is to also build a common platform to deal with “emergent common challenges” such as food security, energy security, pandemics, terrorism and climate change.

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