With Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on their African trail, engaged in hectic diplomacy over the past couple of days, China has proposed a ‘China-India-Plus One’ cooperation in Africa.
On Monday and Tuesday, Rwandan president Paul Kagame hosted back-to-back visits by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kigali.
On Monday, Kagame was at the airport to say farewell to Xi and his wife, only to greet the Indian prime minister an hour later. Both the Chinese and Indian leaders are in Africa to attend the BRICS summit in South Africa later this week.
Rwanda signed 23 agreements with India and China over a period of 24 hours.
China signed 15 agreements, including one for the construction of a 66-km road to a pilgrimage place, a 55-km highway to Rwanda’s under-construction international airport and the expansion of a Chinese-funded hospital.
According to local media, there was also an agreement on the Belt and Road initiative and another on civil transport.
China is Rwanda’s largest trade partner, with the current bilateral import-export volume of $157 million.
On Monday night, India and Rwanda signed eight agreements in the area of defence, agriculture, trade, dairy-cooperation, culture and leather. Two pacts on lines of credit worth $200 million were signed for a special economic zone and irrigation scheme.
Rwanda is already a recipient of Indian lines of credit of nearly $400 million besides Indian training and scholarship programmes.
The latest figure for bilateral trade between India and Rwanda was about $89 million in 2016.
Modi also visited Rweru model village in Rwanda to gift 200 cows as part of a programme overseen by President Paul Kagame wherein the poorest families get dairy cows from the government and the first female calf born of the cow is gifted to a neighbour to promote brotherhood.
Reacting to the simultaneous diplomatic push, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a weekly briefing that “China and India” were “like minded partners” in “deepening cooperation in various fields with African countries to achieve mutual benefit and win-win results”.
“We hope that China and India actively explore China-India plus one or China-India-X cooperation in accordance with the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, realise mutual benefit and win-win between China and India and other countries,” Geng added.
Geng referred to the ‘informal summit’ between Modi and Xi at Wuhan in April this year where both countries had agreed to have joint projects in Afghanistan for capacity building. He suggested a similar Sino-Indian cooperation in third countries and especially in Africa.
While India has been working with other countries, specifically the United States, Japan and under IBSA, to develop projects in Africa, it has no so far taken up any joint third country project with China.
Both Indian and Chinese leaders also made separate visits to the Gisozi genocide memorial, which commemorates the 1994 genocide by the then majority Hutu government against the Tutsi community.
President Kagame said Rwanda was keen to learn from Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” campaign, as the country implements its own “Made in Rwanda” policy, particularly in the manufacturing, construction and ICT sectors.
From Rwanda, Modi flew straight to neighbouring Uganda, for the first visit by an Indian prime minister in over two decades. Modi had visited Kampala when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. Uganda has a 30,000 strong Indian community, many of them originally from Gujarat.
After a reception at the State House, President Yoweri Museveni and Prime Minister Modi held delegation level talks. He also announced two lines of credit worth $200 million for power infrastructure and agriculture.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi already made his way to South Africa for the BRICS summit at Johannesburg. His last stopover will be Mauritius before returning to China.
Modi and Xi are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, which will be their third meeting this year since Wuhan.