Expanding trade ties, particularly in the energy sector, topped the agenda as Indian and African leaders kicked off their largest-ever summit in New Delhi on Monday.
Fifty-four countries, including more than 40 African heads of state, were gathered for the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit, aimed at boosting political, economic and trade ties. Bilateral trade between India and Africa amounts to around 70 billion dollars a year, a move that would see the summit likely announcing expanded trade targets and broader economic linkages, officials said.
Energy will feature prominently in the talks as India imports 70 per cent of its oil, mostly from the politically volatile Middle East, and is looking to diversify its energy sources. Indian diplomats said other areas of discussion include maritime security and counter-terrorism cooperation in the backdrop of a growing arc of terrorism from Nigeria to Somalia. India and African countries have also been demanding a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, calling for reforms in the world body to reflect contemporary realities.
This year’s summit is much larger than the 2008 and 2011 versions, which featured only 15 African countries. Foreign ministers from the countries planned to meet on Tuesday, followed by the main summit among leaders on Thursday. Ahead of the meeting, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said the summit would mark the beginning of a “new era of mutual partnerships.” Heavy security was deployed in the Indian capital, including at the Indira Gandhi stadium, which was converted into a makeshift convention centre for the summit.