New Delhi: India Sunday called for a new people-focused phase in the bilateral partnership with resource-rich Africa as legislators from African countries looked for closer collaboration in the area of democracy and institution building.

“We are entering a new phase in ties with Africa. It’s a relationship based in a new globalized world,” Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, special secretary (public diplomacy) in the external affairs ministry, told a group of young African members of parliament who are currently on a week-long visit to India.

“This economic partnership is based on new factors like the priority on human resource development, skill and capacity building,” he said, while stressing on the new tools of digital diplomacy like Facebook to bolster greater people-to-people contacts between India and Africa.

“India and Africa are poised to take a great leap in ties. This springboard will be our developmental partnership. The goal is to travel this road together,” said Chakravarty.

He also stressed on the need for speeding up delivery schedules of key projects announced by India at the second summit with the African continent in Addis Ababa that includes setting up of over 80 training institutes in different parts of Africa. These institutes will encompass diverse areas, including agriculture, rural development and food processing, information technology, vocational training, English language centres, and entrepreneurial development institutes.

The initiative to host young MPs from Africa is part of India’s broader diplomatic thrust to expand Track-II dialogue partnership with the African continent, which has an overwhelmingly young population.

The process started last year when India hosted around 24 young MPs from African countries ahead of the Addis Ababa summit in New Delhi last year. Currently, over 25 MPs from all regions of Africa are on a week-long visit that includes trips to New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.

Explaining the rationale behind the initiative, Navdeep Suri, joint secretary in charge of public diplomacy in the external affairs ministry, said the idea was to promote greater engagement between the youth of India and Africa.

“That really is the future, to work towards a shared future,” said Suri, who described himself as an “Afro-optimist.”

The initiative is a part of the larger exercise to expand people-to-people contacts that includes “IndiaAfrica: A Shared Future,” a programme led by the IdeaWorks, a private company, and supported by the external affairs ministry, that seeks to create a dynamic platform for students and professionals across India and Africa to collaborate through competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.

African MPs, on their part, lauded the initiative and underlined that they looked forward to learning from India’s developmental and democratic experience.

“India is home to us. The idea is to build the relationship, to make relations stronger. We have learnt a lot from India and its democratic experience,” aid David Ekwee Ethuro, an MP from Kenya,

“Africa is the continent of the future: the potential that needs to be harnesses and released,” said.

“We should walk together in this journey,” ”aid Kwaku Agyenim-Boateng, an MP from Ghana while stressing on translating the vision of more people-focused India-Africa relations into a practical plan.

Sanjay Kirloskar, chairman of the eponymous Kirloskar Brothers Limited which is active in agricultural sector across Africa, said the the private sector of India was collaborating on the basis of Africa’s needs and priorities.

He also spoke about his company’s association with the green revolution in India and in a pioneering initiative in Senegal that has helped the West African country to become self-sufficient in food production.

Source: IANS