Onboard the vice-president’s special flight: In what may provide competition to De Beers, the world’s largest diamond miner and trader, India plans to sign an agreement with Botswana to directly buy uncut diamonds for its diamond cutting and finishing industry.
“This is of direct interest to us, as we have a large and prosperous diamond cutting industry in Gujarat,” vice-president Hamid Ansari said as he embarked on a three-country visit that will take him to Zambia, Malawi and Botswana. “As more and more countries are discovering, direct dealing between seller and buyer is better than the indirect dealing through a monopoly organisation in London.”
On tour: Vice-president Hamid Ansari is on a three-country visit that will take him to Zambia, Malawi and Botswana. Atul Yadav / PTI
The agreement is expected to be inked during the current visit of Ansari to Botswana starting 8 January. After a framework is put into place, the actual sourcing of uncut diamonds is expected to take place after two years.
India’s trade with Africa is around $39 billion (Rs1.8 trillion), and trade with Zambia, Malawi and Botswana is around $302 million.
“Even the government of Botswana wants to diversify the procurers for its diamonds,” an Indian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Things have changed post the worldwide economic crisis as in the global recession the monopoly procurer had refused to source diamonds.”
De Beers had shuttered mining operations in Botswana in the wake of the global financial meltdown and demand contraction.
Diamond mining in Botswana is dominated by Debswana, an equal joint venture between De Beers and the Botswana government. With global demand slowly picking up, direct access to uncut diamonds will benefit the Indian industry.
With China being a significant competitor for India in the energy and mineral rich continent, India has in recent years scrambled to come up with a cohesive Africa policy to catch up with its larger neighbour.
Ansari downplayed the India versus Chinese competition in Africa and said, “I do not think that we should look at Africa or any other place through Chinese engagement.”