The African diplomatic missions in India have kept faith on the Narendra Modi government following assurances from the highest level of the dispensation regarding action against culprits who targeted African students in this city and feel that decades-old bilateral relationship is bigger than these unfortunate incidents, according to senior African diplomat.
“The incidents of current as well as the past attacks on the African nationals came as a rude shock. These events were unfortunate and condemnable. The African diplomatic missions are therefore outraged and decided to lodge protests with the government. The response that we received from the MEA and other authorities have been assuring. They have announced that they will take action against the culprits. We respect Delhi’s move made by the political leadership as well as the senior officials. We are awaiting action and hopeful that corrective measures will be taken,” a senior African Ambassador to India told DB. However, the envoy did not wish to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter at this stage.
Referring to series of steps taken by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Secretary, senior MEA officials, the envoy noted that President Pranab Mukherjee statement on Monday has been most reassuring. Swaraj also met group of African students and diplomats here on Tuesday a day after S Jaishankar had met them. Swaraj assured the students of effective action and described the attacks as non-racist in nature. “All criminal acts should not be construed as racial attacks.These were not premeditated acts against a particular community, rather these were spontaneous attacks perpetrated by anti-social and criminal elements,” said Sushma.
Sushma said that her ministry will initiate programs aimed at sensitising locals about African students in areas where their numbers are high. “We have chalked out a plan as per which, Our Minister of State along with Secretary will visit every metro city and hold discussions with African students. We will also carry out a sensitization campaign.I assure our African friends that institutional mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future. India will continue to remain a country where they will always feel welcome,” she said.
Ahead of his trip to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia in June Mukherjee had said that recent attacks on African students were extremely painful to him personally because he as a student, political activist and MP has seen first-hand how India and Africa have always been close partners. “It would be most unfortunate if the people of India were to dilute our long tradition of friendship with the people of Africa and the welcome we have always extended to them in our country. African students in India should have no reason to fear for their safety and security,” Mukherjee pointed out.
The senior African diplomat pointed out that thorough investigation would ascertain real reasons behind the attacks particularly the killing of the Congolese students. “There are thousands of students from Africa in India both on government of India scholarships as well as in private universities. India has often been considered second home for the Africans, the role Delhi had played in our liberation and anti-apartheid struggle. Some of these students have even gone on to represent Indian Football clubs. This is the depth of our ties,” the envoy recalled as he also pointed out that the Indian government has assured to meet the African envoys here every three months to discuss welfare of the students. The group of African Ambassadors in India has several sub-committees and education is one of them that deals with the students issue.
The senior African envoy noted that Indo-African ties that received major boost from last year’s summit is bigger than these incidents. “Ties are growing and expanding and such has to be consolidated. Our relationship should not be allowed to jolted.” Top Indian leadership will criss-cross Africa over the next two months to enhance strategic, political and economic partnerships. After Hamid Ansari’s trip, President Pranab Mukherjee is likely to be on a three-nation Africa trip in June to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia. This will be followed by the PM’s trips to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. Later in the year, Ansari will also make a trip to Senegal where he was earlier scheduled to travel.