President Ram Nath Kovind to visit Africa in bid to bolster ties1 min read . Updated: 06 Apr 2018, 05:47 AM IST
President Ram Nath Kovind's visit to Equatorial Guinea on 7 April will be the first by Indian head of state or government
New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind will travel to energy-rich Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and copper-rich Zambia from 7-13 April as part of the National Democratic Alliance government’s efforts to refashion and consolidate ties with Africa as it looks to counter strategic rival China’s growing influence in the continent.
This is Kovind’s third trip abroad since taking office in July and also his third visit to Africa. In October, Kovind travelled to Djibouti and Ethiopia and in March, he visited Mauritius and Madagascar.
“It is not by coincidence that all three visits have been to Africa. This reflects the importance in Indian foreign policy given to Africa by this government and the country. It also reflects President Kovind’s personal commitment to that relationship and the countries of Africa," said Ashok Malik, press secretary to Kovind, briefing reporters on the visit.
Kovind’s first stop will be Equatorial Guinea, situated along Africa’s Atlantic coast. When the President lands in the West African country on 7 April, it will mark the first ever visit by an Indian head of state or government.
“India’s relationship with Equatorial Guinea is dominated by the strong partnership in the oil and gas sector. Equatorial Guinea is the fourth largest supplier of natural gas to India," said Neena Malhotra, joint secretary in-charge of East and South Africa in the Indian foreign ministry.
India will announce its decision to open an independent diplomatic mission in the capital Malabo during Kovind’s visit, Malhotra said, referring to a recent decision by the Narendra Modi government to open 18 new embassies in Africa—increasing the number of resident Indian missions in Africa from 29 to 47.