India ropes in Tharoor for diplomacy with Africa
India March 1 once again relied on the diplomacy skills of former minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor to impress upon the African continent to forge science and technology (S&T) partnerships with it.
At the India-Africa S&T Ministers Conference and Tech Expo here, Tharoor, who as minister was responsible for bilateral ties with Africa, was at his best. He impressed upon the Indian and African delegations that the two are facing the same challenges of development and, hence, it was natural for them to come together to find common solutions for critical issues such as affordable healthcare, climate change, energy, food and water security.
His days as the Under Secretary-General at the United Nations and his experience in international diplomacy coming in handy, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram switched effortlessly between speaking in English and French, a language that peoples of several African nations converse in.
"India and Africa have had long and close relations for many years, going back to shared experience of colonialism and, subsequently, our strong movements against colonialism and apartheid," he recalled.
"We have moved beyond that. We have moved on to a relationship of independent countries, prosperous and prospering, and also facing genuine challenges of development. We are facing these challenges in a globalising world, in which the interdependence of nations remains, absolutely, the fundamental principle," Tharoor told the gathering, co-chaired by African Union's Human Resources and S&T Commissioner Prof. Jean Pierre O Ezin.
"Given the various challenges and the pluralism of our societies...given the compatibility of our values and our tendency to face challenges that might daunt others, India and Africa have every reason to mount a credible partnership in the 21st Century," said the former minister, who was instrumental in launching the India-Africa Initiative.
Noting that science and technology is only one aspect of a multi-faced relationship between India and Africa, Tharoor said it is an "extremely important" one, considering the aspirations of the peoples of both sides in looking at the 21st century with "confidence and competence" to take advantage of what the future offers.
Under the S&T Initiative, India and Africa have implemented various programmes and projects, with ministries of external affairs and science and technology working closely to strengthen the relationship.
Tharoor particularly referred to the India-Africa Forum Summits in 2008 and 2010, which laid the foundation for the consolidation of the strategic partnership.
"Given that our strategic partnership is based on fundamental principles of equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit and historical understandings among the two peoples, it is extremely valuable that we have turned to S&T as an effective catalyst for social development and economic transformation of our peoples and our nations," he said.
"The truth is that we all understand, I believe, that S&T is possibly the single most likely cause for the long-term rise of our nations and for the economic advancements of our peoples. Today, in the 21st Century, no country would rise and prosper without a significant and cutting edge progress in the domains of S&T," Tharoor noted.
"We don't believe that India and Africa have any reason to be left behind as the world marches forward in the 21st century," he added.