Ram Nath Kovind will visit Djibouti and Ethiopia from October 3 on his maiden trip abroad as president during which a number of agreements, including one on economic cooperation, is expected to be signed.
During his four-day visit to the two African nations, the president is expected to sign agreements on the institutionalisation of foreign office consultation and greater economic cooperation with Ethiopia, said Neena Malhotra, Joint Secretary (East and Southern Africa) in the Ministry of External Affairs.
Press Secretary to the President Ashok Malik said Djibouti is an important Indian Ocean partner country with whom India’s bilateral trade stands at USD 284 million in 2016-17.
“The president is looking forward to the visit. He recognises that the Africa and Indian ocean region are central to Indian foreign policy. That is why this region was chosen as his first foreign visit,” Malik told reporters here.
Malhotra said this will be the first visit by an Indian president to Ethiopia after 45 years. The last visit was by President V V Giri in 1972.
She said there will be a business event and an interaction with the Indian community there.
“The first visit by the president to Africa shows the importance of the Africa for the current government. The Prime Minister had declared that Africa is a priority for Indian foreign and economic policies,” she said.
India’s bilateral trade with Ethiopia in 2016 was nearly USD 1 billion. The country is among the top three foreign investors in Ethiopia with an approved investment of 4 billion dollars.
Malik said India has extended a line of credit of USD 49 million to Djibouti, mainly for constructing a cement plant.
It is a strategically located country just off the Gulf of Aden.
Asked whether India will sign any pact with Ethiopia on import of pulses, Malhotra said India imports pulses from four African countries — Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Ethiopia.
“This year we had a bumper crops so I think our import from Africa including Myanmar, Australia and Canada will also come down drastically. We are not contemplating signing any agreement as far as pulses is concerned,” she said.
Asked about China establishing a military base in Djibouti, Malik said India’s relations with the nation stands on its own footing which goes back to many years.
“India is not a stranger to this country, economically or politically. What other countries do is entirely the business of these countries. We don’t need to comment on that. As far as defence agreement with Djibouti is concerned, there is nothing scheduled yet,” he said.
In both the countries the president will interact with the members of the Indian community.