New Delhi - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned on the charm for African leaders on Thursday, promising $10 billion in credit to back a “partnership of prosperity” and pitching a broad alliance for global reform.
Hosting 54 nations for the biggest India-Africa summit, Modi laid on a lavish cultural programme with dancers, drummers and videos in a sports arena.
“The dreams of a third of humanity have come together under one roof,” he said in a speech.
Behind the aspirational rhetoric lies a fundamental shift in India's outlook under the 65-year-old leader, who wants Asia's third-largest economy to break out of a history of isolation and non-alignment to become a global player.
Yet India, soon to become the world's most populous country, has its work cut out to catch up with China, whose annual trade with Africa is three times larger than its own $72 billion.
“We will raise the level of our support for your vision of a prosperous, integrated and united Africa that is a major partner for the world,” Modi told leaders, including presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Mohammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt.
India and Africa are home to seven in 10 of the world's poor but are among the fastest growing economies, leading Modi to talk of a “vibrant India” and a “resurgent Africa”.
He promised $10 billion in new credit, in addition to $7.4 billion in soft loans and $1.2 billion in aid provided since the first India-Africa summit in 2008.
In addition, India will offer grant aid of $600 million.
Of that, $100 million would go towards a new India-Africa Development Fund and $10 million to an India-Africa Health Fund.
Modi urged India and Africa to speak with one voice on global affairs, including reform of the United Nations.
India aspires to a permanent seat on an expanded UN Security Council, arguing that it is rooted in the post-war global order and fails to reflect today's power relations.
He appealed for African support on trade, saying a World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in December in Nairobi should ensure that free trade talks serve both regions' goals.
India is pressing for a permanent deal on food stockpiling, an issue that has complicated the long-running Doha Round, arguing that it must hoard food to ensure that its 1.25 billion people do not go hungry.
Modi also appealed to African nations to join an alliance of “solar-rich” countries at the forthcoming UN climate summit in Paris to promote clean and affordable energy.
“When the sun sets, tens of millions of homes in India and Africa become dark. We want to light up lives of our people and power their future,” said Modi.
“But, we want to do it in a way that the snow on Kilimanjaro does not disappear, the glacier that feeds the River Ganga does not retreat and our islands are not doomed.”
* E-mail your opinion to [email protected] and we will consider it for publication or use our Facebook and Twitter pages to comment on our stories. See links below.