India and Sierra Leone seek to expand bilateral ties and push for UNSC reforms

New Delhi/ PIB News: India and Sierra Leone signed 6 agreements today to expand the bilateral relations in various fields and also agreed to push for UNSC reforms so that one-third of mankind residing in Africa and India occupy their rightful place in decision making bodies of the UN.

The agreements were signed in the presence of Mr. Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Vice President who arrived in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, on the second and last leg of his tour to African nations. This is the first ever visit of an Indian Vice President to Sierra Leone.

India announced the decision to establish a High Commission in Sierra Leone, even as both the countries have agreed to enhance cooperation in agriculture, food processing, Information Technology, infrastructure development and capacity building.

Earlier, the Vice President held a tête-à-têteand delegation level talks with Mr. Julius Maada Bio. Both the leaders exchanged views on multilateral issues and decided to build on the existing cooperation at UNSC and other multilateral fora.

During the delegation level talks, Shri Naidu informed Mr. Bio that the recent re-organization of the Jammu and Kashmir state into two centrally administered Union Territories was purely an internal administrative decision without any impact on external boundaries of India. “The decision was taken to give a boost to socio-economic development in Jammu and Kashmir and to combat cross-border terrorism”, he said.

Observing that our positions are almost identical on various international issues, including UNSC reforms and the need to combat terrorism collectively, the Vice President appreciated Sierra Leone’s role in international affairs, especially as the Chair of the African Union Committee of ten on UNSC reforms (C-10 group).

The Vice President said that India has a special relationship with Sierra Leone and the friendly ties between the two countries are based on common values and shared vision. He recalled that India was among the first countries to contribute to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) with the deployment of 4000 strong Indian Military contingent.

He also conveyed India’s appreciation to the people and government of Sierra Leone on peaceful conduct of elections in early 2018 and smooth transition of power.

Declaring that India’s developmental assistance to Sierra Leone so far aggregated to US$ 217.5 million for various sectors including agriculture, energy, water resources and telecommunication, Shri Naidu announced a Line of Credit to the tune of US$ 30 million for Irrigation development in Tomabum to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production. An agreement was also signed today with the EXIM Bank of India in this regard.

He said that decision was taken to reactivate the US $ 15 million Line of Credit for potable water project.  The Vice President also informed President Bio that India would be happy to offer line of credit for construction of a new President’s Office complex in Freetown.

Highlighting the growing people-to-people linkages between the two countries, Shri Naidu said that India has extended e-Visa facility to Sierra Leone nationals for ease of mobility and both sides are also negotiating a visa waiver agreement for holders of diplomatic and official passports.

The Vice President expressed his happiness that Sierra Leone has agreed to participate in the e-VBAB project and that MoU with TCIL was signed today.

Shri Naidu also expressed his satisfaction at the cooperation between India and Sierra Leone in the field of capacity building, especially under India’s flagship ITEC program.

Today, a MoU was signed for Sierra Leone to participate in India’s Pan-African tele-Education, tele-Medicine initiatives, e-VidyaBharati and e-Arogya Bharati. “India will soon initiate steps to set up the Centre of Excellence in IT in Sierra Leone. India will also be dispatching 1000 MTs of rice to Sierra Leone, as a goodwill gesture, in the coming months”, the Vice President said.

An agreement was signed to initiate a cultural exchange program between the governments of India and Sierra Leone for the years 2019-23. A protocol for consultation and a MoU between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, government of Sierra Leone and the Foreign Services Institute, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India were also signed.

The Vice President expressed his happiness on Sierra Leone joining the International Solar Alliance in which India is playing a leading role to enable rapid deployment of solar energy globally and to facilitate the transfer of technology.

Shri Naidu reiterated India’s offer to conduct a “Jaipur Foot” camp in Sierra Leone under the “India for Humanity” initiative for fitting of artificial prosthetic limbs for the disabled. This is an initiative undertaken in the context of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. He also thanked President Bio for releasing a postage stamp on Mahatma Gandhi.

The President hosted a banquet in honour of the visiting Vice President today. In his speech at the banquet, the Vice President said that India and Sierra Leone are nurturing the beautiful tree of democracy and that India believed in forging stronger bonds with Sierra Leone. “India is not only opening a new mission here very soon but stands committed to work with you in all spheres of your priority”, he added.

Soon after Vice President’s arrival in Freetown from Comoros, Ms. Nabeela Fareeda Tunia, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on Shri Naidu and held discussions on bilateral issues and international cooperation. The Vice President appreciated the Sierra Leone Government for ensuring the safety and security of Indian Community of around 1400.

He said that enormous potential exists for Indian participation in mining, agro-industries, aqua-culture, diamonds and pharmaceuticals. “We need to work together”, he added.